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GAO report finds no issues with Redstone Arsenal as Space Command HQ

Redstone Arsenal Gate 9 (AL.com news partner WHNT Channel 19/TNS)

The Government Accountability Office, in reviewing the selection process of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the “preferred” site for U.S. Space Command headquarters, found issues in that process and recommended the Air Force develop better guidance for future basing decisions.

However, the GAO made no comment — in highlighting the main points of its 89-page review — on the suitability of Redstone Arsenal as the home for Space Command but was critical of the selection process.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby interpreted the GAO report as good news for Redstone, citing a previous investigation by the defense department inspector general that found reason to support the Army post as an appropriate site for Space Command.

“Pleased that the (GAO) Space Command report reiterates what the IG report said last month,” Shelby said Thursday in a message posted on Twitter. “The Air Force followed strict criteria when they evaluated and selected Huntsville. I agree Huntsville was the right pick for the job.”

The GAO recommendation said changes should be made for “future strategic basing decisions” to be more consistent with the GAO’s best practices. The GAO noted that the Air Force neither agreed nor disagreed with that recommendation.

The GAO report was expected to be good news for Redstone. Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville said last month that, after having been briefed on the GAO findings and including the IG report, “both reviews were positive.”

Huntsville was selected over Colorado Springs, where Space Command has been based since its startup, through a series of criteria designed to evaluate the best permanent location for the command expected to provide about 1,400 jobs.

“GAO found that the Air Force’s revised process fully or substantially met 7 of 21 Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) best practices it assessed,” a GAO summary of its findings said. “These best practices are grouped into four characteristics of a high-quality AOA process. GAO found that the revised process did not fully or substantially meet 3 of 4 characteristics.”

The summary also said, ““We found that the Air Force’s process did not substantially meet 3 of these 4 characteristics — leading to significant shortfalls in its transparency and credibility.”

In a press release Thursday, members of Colorado’s congressional delegation continued to protest the decision of removing Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

“We now know that in a White House meeting in January 2021, senior military leadership recommended Colorado Springs as the preferred location for Space Command due to the unique ability of Peterson Space Force Base to reach full operational capability significantly faster than any other potential location, and at a significantly lower cost,” the delegation said in a statement. “However, following this meeting a different location was announced as the selection, and justified with inconsistent documentation and unclear reasoning.”

In his own statement Thursday, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, whose north Alabama district includes Redstone Arsenal, said, “The GAO’s report backs up what has already been said many times: that Huntsville ranked #1 across the board in the legal and merit-based competition for SPACECOM HQ. The Tennessee Valley community compared favorably to the other 5 potential locations, providing a large, qualified workforce, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs. Ultimately, Huntsville is not only the best option to support the Command and our national security priorities in the near term but far into the future as well.”

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