HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The U.S. Air Force’s hotly contested decision to move the U.S. Space Command Headquarters to Huntsville, Ala. from the current location in Colorado had passed a federal hurdle.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General released a report evaluating the selection on Tuesday, May 10.

The Inspector General evaluated whether the Air Force complied with DOD and Air Force policies during the location selection process; used objective and relevant scoring factors to rank the six candidate locations; and calculated the cost and other scoring factors accurately and consistently among the six candidate locations.

The DoD found the process used by the Air Force “complied with law and policy, and was reasonable in identifying Huntsville as the preferred permanent location.”

“This is good news and reaffirms what I have already known to be true: that the Air Force selected Huntsville based on merit and that Huntsville is the best place for Space Command to call home,” Senator Richard Shelby tweeted on Tuesday.

Read the full report here.

The Air Force decided in 2021 to move Space Command operations, including 1,800 staff members, from its current base in Colorado Springs, Colo. to a permanent home at Redstone Arsenal. The decision came after a comparison between Alabama and bases in other states based on the cost of living, expansion room, security, and the ability to support staff needs.

Colorado officials expressed issues with the decision to relocate the headquarters from its current location, citing the decision may have been politically motivated by former President Donald Trump.

Findings from the Inspector General’s investigation are not binding but will be given to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The U.S. Office of Accountability also conducted an examination of the Air Force selection process. Those findings were shared with lawmakers, but not released to the public.

A final decision on the move has not been approved. The Air Force said a final decision will be made in 2023, pending the results of an environmental impact analysis that’s required.

News 19 reached out to the Air Force Secretary’s Office for comment on the report. They Air Force Press Desk sent us this statement:

“We appreciate the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General’s independent and thorough review. According to the report, the DoD IG concluded that the “2020 Basing Action process directed by SECDEF complied with Federal Law and DoD Policy and that the process was reasonable.”  The Department of the Air Force will now proceed with the analysis and review required by National Environmental Policy Act, which includes consideration of not only the preferred location, but all reasonable alternatives.  The NEPA process provides opportunities for public review and comment that DAF will consider, together with the environmental analysis, before making a final basing decision for USSPACECOM headquarters. As recommended by the DoD IG and directed by the Secretary of Defense, the DAF will also review concerns regarding the time needed to reach full operational capability for U.S. Space Command headquarters.  The review is expected to take 90 days and will be followed by release of the draft environmental assessment for a 30-day public comment period.  Once the environmental assessment is finalized, the Secretary of the Air Force will select a location for U.S. Space Command Headquarters.”

For more information on United States Space Command, click here.