HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday morning on the basing decision for Space Command included several revelations about the decision to select Colorado Springs over Huntsville for the command headquarters.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, the committee chairman, said the committee’s investigation determined that the justification of concerns about “operational readiness” as the basis for leaving the headquarters in Colorado is “just fabricated.”
Huntsville had been expected to be the permanent location for the headquarters based on multiple Air Force reviews, but the current location in Colorado Springs was selected by President Biden on July 31. That decision sparked outrage among Alabama officials and Rogers vowed to investigate what happened.
During this morning’s hearing, Rogers pointed out that the chief of Space Force told him in a letter that the move of Space Command would not affect Space Command’s operational readiness. General Chance Salzman, chief of space operations for U.S. Space Force confirmed his assessment during the hearing.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told the committee he supported President Biden’s decision to make Colorado Springs the permanent headquarters for Space Command. But, Kendall also said that in his view it came down to a judgment about the operational risk associated with the relocation vs. the reduced cost of the leading alternative, Huntsville.
“My assessment was the projected cost savings together with the availability of potential mitigation measures outweighed the operational risk that had been identified,” Kendall told the committee.
He said Space Command Commander Gen. James Dickinson expressed concern that the operational risk of moving the headquarters to Huntsville “was significant.”
Huntsville-area U.S. Rep. Dale Strong also pointed out that in the hearing that the selection process had found picking Huntsville would have saved taxpayers an estimated $426 million, that Colorado’s construction costs were three times that of Alabama’s, that Space Command was using rented properties up to nine miles away from Peterson Air Force and that during the headquarters construction, Redstone Arsenal would have set up Space Command’s operations entirely on-base.
Rogers sharply questioned Dickinson about the readiness concerns and what Dickinson said during a meeting with the Alabama congressional delegation in June.
“I asked you if you could imagine any circumstance where you would recommend Colorado Springs as the permanent basing location for SpaceCom, and your direct answer to me was, ‘No Sir. Is that not correct?”
Dickinson replied, “Chairman there was a misunderstanding in that meeting.”
“Was that not your answer to me? You’re under oath sir,” Rogers said.
Dickinson repeated there was a misunderstanding in the meeting.
Rogers again asked, “What was your answer?
Dickinson replied he had a misunderstanding in the meeting.
Rogers then acknowledged that Dickinson said in a letter the next day that the decision was the Secretary of the Air Force’s and he didn’t mean to imply he was picking a location or impede the choice.
Rogers also reminded Dickinson that he told Rogers that Colorado Springs had been set up as a temporary location until a permanent location could be established.
Rogers said they had been told it was the Secretary of the Air Force’s call on a final location, but President Biden ended up making the Colorado Springs selection.