The decision document briefed to President Donald Trump on Jan. 11, 2021, named Colorado Springs as the first choice for the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command, according to the final report of the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General, obtained by The Gazette.
The decision to headquarter Space Command in Colorado Springs, the OIG draft explains, was based on the “best military judgment” of top military leaders, including SPACECOM leader Gen. James Dickinson, Space Force chief Gen. Jay Raymond and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, according to an unredacted version of the report obtained by the web site, Breaking Defense. Those names were redacted in the final version of the report.
Senior military space officers had issues with Colorado Springs’ low ranking in the metrics used in the initial review of sites, according to the unredacted OIG report.
The report’s recommendations potentially open the door to reexamination of the basing review for Space Command.
Trump overrode the military leaders' recommendation and picked Huntsville, Ala., as the headquarters for Space Command.
“The DoD OIG report confirms that throughout the process the best military advice and first choice of our top commanders was to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents Colorado’s 5th Congressional District.
“This report focused on the chronology of the events and whether any nefarious or illegal actions occurred, while the forthcoming GAO report did a much deeper review of the criteria and scoring in this basing decision. With only a cursory review of the process itself, the DoD OIG’s conclusion that the previous basing decision was reasonable simply means that it was logical based on flawed evaluations.”
Though Huntsville had ranked high in the metrics evaluated for the basing decision, the recommendation from the Pentagon was that Colorado Springs instead remain SPACECOM’s home, thanks to the interdiction of the senior military officers, according to Breaking Defense's report.
The critical concern of senior military officers was that the process failed to take into account the need to rapidly bring SPACECOM up to full operational capability. Keeping SPACECOM at Peterson Space Force Base could “accelerate” that process, while moving it would require new facilities, the report found. Sources familiar with the GAO report said Peterson could have the command fully operational in 2-3 years, while it would take Huntsville up to six years to become fully operational.
"Two of the four recommendations in the DoD OIG report are to more fully account for the imperative to quickly achieve full operational capability based on concerns raised by our military leaders that this was not adequately factored in during this basing process," said Lamborn. "I will continue to advocate for a fair and transparent basing decision that prioritizes national security imperatives and rapidly addresses the increasing threats we face in space.”
The DoD IG report does conclude that Huntsville was a reasonable decision, given that it place first in the original ranking of sites. Colorado Springs placed fifth, according to those metrics. "Based on the flawed process, Redstone is validated as a 'reasonable' choice by the DoD IG. It does not say it was the right decision, just that based on the process that was used it is a logical conclusion," said a senior source familiar with both reports.
The plan to base Space Command in Alabama has been called an ill-conceived political play by many lawmakers including Lamborn. They say Trump's move was designed to reward Alabama lawmakers who remained loyal to the president as he contested the 2020 election.
“Space Force, I sent to Alabama,” Trump claimed in a radio show interview in August 2021. “I hope you know that. [They] said they were looking for a home and I single-handedly said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ They wanted it. I said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ I love Alabama.”
"What is clear from this report that the Air Force’s best military advice resulted in bringing Colorado Springs forward as the preferred location in their meeting with the President and that this was reflected in the decision matrix provided at that time," the source said. "Following this meeting, however, the decision matrix was revised from its original recommendation of Colorado Springs to a new decision of Huntsville."
"Two of the four recommendations in the DoD OIG report are to more fully account for the imperative to quickly achieve full operational capability based on concerns raised by our military leaders that this was not adequately factored in during this basing process," added Lamborn. "I will continue to advocate for a fair and transparent basing decision that prioritizes national security imperatives and rapidly addresses the increasing threats we face in space.”