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Space Command leaders accused of ‘deliberate manipulation’ in headquarters fight

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 20, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

The Alabama chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has accused Air Force and U.S. Space Command leadership of “deliberate, taxpayer-funded manipulation of a competitive selection process” in the fight over a permanent location for the U.S. Space Command headquarters.

Chairman of the committee, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), said in a Wednesday letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Space Command commanding Gen. James Dickinson that the committee has been trying since May 25 to obtain “essential documents” related to the selection of a permanent home for the command.

“To date, you have refused to meaningfully respond to this request and have offered contradictory explanations of fundamental issues,” Rogers wrote.

Rogers represents Alabama where the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville was the top choice of an official base selection competition. That competition procedure was established years earlier by the Pentagon to decide base closings and moves and end political infighting among states over the steady jobs and tax revenue those installations generate.

The final six candidate locations in the Space Command HQ competition were Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, where the command was started and now operates; Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico; Patrick Space Force Base in Florida; Redstone Arsenal in Alabama; Joint Base San Antonio in Texas; and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

“In its review of the initial basing decision for USSPACECOM, the Government Accountability Office noted that senior (Department of Defense) leaders intervened to give Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO a chance to change their cost projections and personnel needs without giving other sites the same opportunity,” Rogers’ letter said. “This deliberate change altered the appearance of competition results after the competition was effectively complete.

“Your responses to the committee’s requests thus far demonstrate a similar pattern of obfuscation, delay, and manipulation,” Rogers wrote.

Rogers requested a response to document requests by Friday and a “transcribed interview” by Kendall and Dickinson with committee staff no later than Aug. 18. “Multiple interviews and additional persons may be required due to insufficient document request responses,” Rogers wrote. “Your continued failure to reply with documentary and testimonial requests may result in the use of compulsory processes,” Rogers wrote.

The letter is the latest move in an increasingly heated confrontation between members of Congress and the Pentagon over the base. An official military ranking procedure put Redstone atop the list of official preferred candidates for the headquarters but supporters of keeping the command in Colorado Springs, Colo., where it started and now operates, have opposed a move.

U.S. Rep. Dale Strong (R-Huntsville) said on Twitter today that, “A robust preferred headquarters site selection process, two official re-evaluations, and countless studies all point to Alabama being the best location for Space Command. That’s all there is to say at this point.”

What should be “the easiest decision that ever graced Secretary Kendall’s desk” has put Kendall in a position of “deliberately defying the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in an effort to cover up how the Biden administration tipped the scales in favor of Colorado,” Strong said.

The base selection decision became openly political when former President Donald Trump said on an Alabama radio talk show in 2021 that he “single-handedly” ordered the command to Alabama.


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