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WH Denies Politics in Decision to Cancel Space Command HQ Move to Alabama

The Biden administration is denying that politics played a role in its decision to cancel the Space Command headquarters’ move from Colorado to Alabama, despite the decision coming amid a nasty fight with the state’s senior senator over abortion policy.

The Biden administration announced Monday its decision to cancel the move, which had been ordered by former President Donald Trump, saying it was due to “operational readiness.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday, “I will tell you politics played no role in this decision.”

“And so as you look back at this, it was a very thorough, deliberate process that was backed up by data and analysis and in compliance with federal law and DOD policy. And so ultimately, a decision had to be made, recommendations were provided and the President made a decision, and that decision came down to operational readiness,” he said.

The decision comes amid a White House standoff with Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who has placed a hold on the Senate’s ability to confirm the Biden administration’s Pentagon appointees in a blanket fashion. The Senate can still confirm nominees on a one-by-one basis, but Senate Democrats are refusing to do so as that would take up valuable time on the Senate floor they would like to devote to other business.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) talks with reporters after the senate luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Tuberville placed the hold in response to the Biden Pentagon’s new policy for taxpayers to pay for the costs of service members to travel out of state for abortions if they are based in a state where they or their family members cannot get one. Tuberville argues that this violates the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from paying for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is at risk.

The Biden administration’s announcement came just days after Pentagon officials failed in a closed-door briefing to convince Tuberville to drop his hold.

National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby insisted Tuesday that the decision “had nothing to do with Sen. Tuberville’s holds, had nothing to do with partisan politics [and] had everything to do with making sure that Space Command, in an undisrupted way, continue to operate at peak readiness levels in what is one of the most critical domains across the spectrum of your domains in that space.”

However, Alabama Republicans are not buying it.

Tuberville said in a statement Monday:

Over two and a half years ago, the Air Force chose Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville for the headquarters of Space Command over 59 other cities on the basis of 21 different criteria. As soon as Joe Biden took office, he paused movement on that decision and inserted politics into what had been a fair and objective competition—not because the facts had changed, but because the political party of the sitting President had changed.

He vowed to fight on: “This is absolutely not over. I will continue to fight this as long as it takes to bring Space Command where it would be best served—Huntsville, Alabama.”

Alabama’s junior senator, Sen. Katie Britt (R) also blasted the decision in a statement, saying, “President Biden has irresponsibly decided to yank a military decision out of the Air Force’s hands in the name of partisan politics.”

“The President’s blatant prioritization of partisan political considerations at the expense of our national security, military modernization, and force readiness is a disservice and a dishonor to his oath of office as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief,” she added.

The Associated Press

President Joe Biden greats a group of Thunderbird pilots after arriving at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) also excoriated the decision, saying in a statement:

Huntsville, Alabama was chosen to be the headquarters of U.S. Space Command because it was the strongest location and investigations by the [Department of Defense Inspector General] and [the Government Accountability Office] have upheld this decision. Yet, the Biden administration decided to make Colorado Springs, Colorado, which came in fifth in the Selection Phase, the location of the headquarters for U.S. Space Command. It’s clear that far-left politics, not national security, was the driving force behind this decision.

Rogers said he would investigate the decision and “continue to hold the Biden administration accountable for their egregious political meddling in our national security,” adding, “This fight is far from over.”

The Associated Press reported that President Joe Biden made the decision himself after being convinced by Gen. James Dickinson, the head of Space Command.

The decision went against Air Force leadership, which had decided after a lengthy review that relocating the headquarters from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama, was the best location. Subsequent DOD IG and GAO investigations found that the move to Alabama was fair and justified.

Tuberville said the top three choices for the Space Command headquarters were all in red states: Alabama, Nebraska, and Texas. “Colorado didn’t even come close. This decision to bypass the three most qualified sites looks like blatant patronage politics, and it sets a dangerous precedent that military bases are now to be used as rewards for political supporters rather than for our security,” he said in his statement.

“Huntsville finished first in both the Air Force’s Evaluation Phase and Selection Phase, leaving no doubt that the Air Force’s decision to choose Redstone as the preferred basing location was correct purely on the merits. That decision should have remained in the Air Force’s purview. Instead, President Biden is now trying to hand the Gold Medal to the fifth-place finisher,” Britt said.

Colorado Democrats cheered the decision, as did one Republican — Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO). Buck said in a statement:

I applaud the decision today by the Biden Administration to keep U.S. Space Command where it belongs – in Colorado. Our entire Congressional Delegation, both Republicans and Democrats, have worked together for years to achieve this important result. Colorado already has the pre-existing infrastructure, first-rate work force, private-sector support, and communication platforms necessary to provide for our national security mission in space.

The Associated Press

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) listens during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on July 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

It is not clear whether the move will sway Tuberville, who has broad support from conservatives and has shown no signs of backing down.

The Pentagon signaled Tuesday it would not back down either on its abortion policy, which came after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“We have a very clear policy that is in support of our service members. And at issue here is equitable healthcare for all of our service members, no matter where they’re stationed, and that’s frankly something that we have always supported and we’ll continue to support,” Ryder said.

Although the Biden administration denied politics factored into its decision to keep the Space Command headquarters in Colorado, in June, a Space Force commander admitted that she made personnel decisions based on state politics.

Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, chief operations officer for the U.S. Space Force, said at a Pride Month event at the Pentagon:

Transformational cultural change requires leadership from the top and we do not have time to wait. Since January of this year, more than 400 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced at the state level. That number is rising and demonstrates a trend that could be dangerous for service members, their families, and the readiness of the force as a whole.

“When I look at potential candidates, say for Squadron command, I strive to match the right person to the right job. I consider their job performance and relevant experience first. However, I also look at their personal circumstances. And their family is also an important factor. If a good match for a job does not feel safe being themselves and performing at their highest potential at a given location or if their family could be denied critical health care due to the laws in that state. I am compelled to consider a different candidate and perhaps less qualified,” she added.

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