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DOD inspector general to probe selection of Space Command headquarters

DOD inspector general to probe selection of Space Command headquarters

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Space Command flag

From left, then-President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Mark Esper watch as the flag for U.S. Space Command is unfurled in August 2019. An 11th-hour decision by Trump to move the headquarters from Colorado to Alabama has generated controversy.

The complaint from Nebraska and Colorado that politics tainted the selection of Huntsville, Alabama, as the preferred site for the U.S. Space Command’s permanent headquarters is about to get a hearing in Washington.

The Department of Defense inspector general announced Friday that it will review the process Air Force officials used to pick Huntsville’s Redstone Army Airfield over Offutt Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs and three other sites.

The selection of the Huntsville site was announced Jan. 13, just one week before the end of the Trump administration.

“We still believe Offutt AFB is the best place for USSPACECOM HQ and that the data will ultimately confirm that,” David G. Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Offutt support committee, said in a statement. “We are pleased that DoD IG and other entities are taking a second look at the selection process and results.”

The Space Command became a fully independent joint command in 2019 after 17 years under the umbrella of the Offutt-based U.S. Strategic Command, and it is temporarily headquartered in Colorado Springs until a permanent site is chosen. It was also based there during its previous incarnation as an independent command, from 1985 to 2002.

The other three finalists were Port San Antonio in Texas, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida and Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

A memorandum to acting Air Force Secretary John Roth — posted to the inspector general’s website — said the evaluation would begin this month and look at whether the Air Force’s selection process complied with DOD and Air Force policies.

The memo said the inspector general will also study whether the Air Force used “objective and relevant” scoring factors to rank the six locations and whether costs and other scoring factors had been accurately calculated.

Each of the six finalists was scored on a 100-point scale that rated them on factors related to compatibility with the Space Command’s mission, base capacity, costs to the DOD and community support.

Each was allowed to make a one-hour presentation to the site selection committee over video teleconference. Each also received a site visit.

Huntsville bills itself as the “Rocket City” and is home to several Army missile commands and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Offutt’s team touted the area’s low cost of living, livability, quality of schools and strong support for the military in its bid, which also included $107 million in financial and infrastructure incentives. It also offered a new university alliance headquartered at the University of Nebraska to provide research and academic support.

Colorado Springs offered its own academic alliance and a reported $130 million worth of incentives. Backers also boasted of the area’s decades-long association with Air Force space missions.

Colorado political and business leaders have been especially vocal in their criticism of the Air Force’s decision. They have accused then-President Donald Trump of overturning an Air Force recommendation in support of Colorado Springs as a political favor to Alabama politicians who supported his bid to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in the November election.

The inspector general’s memo didn’t say how long the investigation is expected to take. Brown said in his statement that he is looking to an early decision.

“The sooner we can get this resolved, the better for our nation and the important space warfighting mission,” he said.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.


 

Photos: Offutt Air Force Base through the years

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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