The Air Force stated in January 2021 that Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal had selected the new headquarters of US Space Command. This marked a significant shift away from Colorado Springs, Colorado, which had long served as the hub of military space operations. The decision raised a lot of questions.
In a study released on June 2, the Government Accountability Office expressed concerns about how the United States Air Force chose Huntsville, Alabama, as the preferred location for the United States Space Command, which is now situated in Colorado.
The Air Force’s basing decision procedure mainly followed criteria specified by the secretary of defense, according to GAO after a year of investigation. However, according to the report, GAO discovered “serious flaws in its transparency and reliability.” The ruling generated the “appearance of bias” as a result.
According to the GAO, the decision to base the US Space Command headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in January 2021 was reached using approaches that were inconsistent with current “best practices” employed by federal agencies in establishing decisions. The report stated this.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) requested that GAO investigate the methodology that resulted in the Trump administration’s January 2021 recommendation to relocate US Space Command head offices from Colorado Springs’ Peterson Space Force Base to Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.
The Air Force mostly followed it’s defined strategic basing procedure to choose the optimal location for US Space Command headquarters from December 2018 to early March 2020, according to GAO. Under the guidance of then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the Air Force altered its procedure from early March 2020 to January 2021, resulting in the selection of Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.
“The revamped method included some parts of the previous basing approach, but it also included new steps.” For example, rather than starting with a list of candidates depending on their ability to meet established functional requirements, the Air Force sought nominations from all Fifty states in its redesigned process,” according to GAO.
The 89-page report, which was released on June 2, is a condensed version of a longer report the GAO shared with legislators last month.
Owing to the importance of the content, the Department of Defense requested that certain sections of the original study not be made public. GAO was told to leave out data on the names and number of candidates the Air Force was going to have evaluated if the enterprise definition had been changed, as well as candidate scores and positions during the review process and key scoring criteria like an available qualified workforce.
Information on the Air Force’s selection phase process, input to considerations before January 11, 2021, discussion at the White House with high-ranking officials, and the Air Force’s justification for selecting Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location for US Space Command headquarters were also deleted from the published report by GAO.