Colorado, New Mexico Lawmakers Press Biden on Space Command HQ Relocation to Alabama

President Joe Biden received a second letter from lawmakers requesting his administration to review the Air Force's decision to select the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama for the headquarters of the Space Command.

Signed by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM), the letter claims that initial reports of the Air Force's selection process "raise serious questions of political impropriety" and "demonstrate clear violations" of the branch's standards.

The speed at which the Air Force finalized their decision for the U.S. Space Command headquarters raises serious questions of political impropriety.@SenatorLujan @RepTeresaLF and I are calling on President Biden to conduct a comprehensive review of this process. pic.twitter.com/Sv9MCDCgOU

— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) January 29, 2021

The selection process allegedly used a "subjective evaluation scale" to determine Huntsville would win the spot, "circumventing" the Air Force's Strategic Basing Scale, a standard mechanism used to determine key decisions like the location of a headquarters, according to the letter.

The Department of the Air Force announced an open bidding process in May 2020 to select the Space Command's host community. Space News reported that 23 states submitted bids to host.

"Huntsville compared favorably across more of these factors than any other community, providing a large, qualified workforce, quality schools, superior infrastructure capacity, and low initial and recurring costs. Additionally, Redstone Arsenal offered a facility to support the headquarters, at no cost, while the permanent facility is being constructed," the Air Force said in a statement cited by Space News.

The speed at which the Air Force finalized their decision for the U.S. Space Command headquarters raises serious questions of political impropriety.@SenatorLujan @RepTeresaLF and I are calling on President Biden to conduct a comprehensive review of this process. pic.twitter.com/Sv9MCDCgOU

— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) January 29, 2021

But New Mexico's lawmakers are asking Biden to stop all plans to execute the set up of the Huntsville location until a "thorough review" is completed.

"We believe New Mexico presents a unique opportunity for Space Command to build a headquarters from the ground up while leveraging existing organizations like the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and the Space Vehicles Directorate along with a robust national lab infrastructure and a thriving private sector space economy," the lawmakers wrote.

There are more than 80 companies working in the space sector in New Mexico, according to New Space New Mexico, a non-profit organization dedicated to promote the state as a leader in the space economy.

We are disappointed to hear that ABQ-KAFB wasn’t selected for the US Space Command HQ location. NM offers the full package of a thriving and expanding space industry, key military space organizations, world-class National Labs, protected airspace, and a highly-qualified workforce https://t.co/erxeGB1nj4

— NewSpace New Mexico (@newspacenm) January 13, 2021

"We are disappointed to hear that [New Mexico] wasn't selected for the US Space Command HQ location," the organization said in a Twitter response to the state losing the bid. "New Mexico offers the full package of a thriving and expanding space industry, key military space organizations, world-class National Labs, protected airspace, and a highly-qualified workforce."

Colorado's congressional delegation had reportedly sent an earlier letter to Biden about the matter as well. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also resisted the designation of Huntsville. Bennet led the Colorado delegation to suspend and review the Air Force's choice, stating the move was more political than strategic, The Gazette reported. Bennet's state was favored for the bid because the Space Command has been temporarily based in Colorado Springs.

Our national defense requires a seamless approach to our mission in space, which is why @US_SpaceCom must stay in Colorado.

This week, I led the Colorado delegation in urging @POTUS to suspend and review Trump's decision to move Space Command to Alabama. https://t.co/XaTONEJAXk

— Michael Bennet (@SenatorBennet) January 30, 2021

The Air Force selection committee reportedly recommended Colorado twice, according to The Atlantic. Former Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett brought the recommendation to then-President Donald Trump, who ordered that Huntsville win at the last minute. The decision raised suspicions of a power move by the former administration to take jobs from a state the then-president-elect won to a pro-Trump state, Space News reported.

"This was a political decision by the White House," a former defense official told The Atlantic. "The service recommended Colorado, and everyone expects the new administration will reopen this."

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on defense, rejoiced at the Air Force's selection and reiterated in a statement that Hunstville was a proper choice because of its workforce, "cost savings," industrial strength, and related agencies located at Redstone.

"This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force," Sen. Shelby said his statement. "This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things. I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force."

The U.S. Space Command was established in 2019 as the 11th unified combatant command, according to Space News. The Atlantic reported that Biden has not commented on future plans for the Space Command.

Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. Space Command for comment.

U.S. Space Command
Huntsville, Alabama has been chosen to host the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Command, but New Mexico lawmakers have written a. letter to President Biden challenging the decision. U.S. Air Force Space Command Gen. John "Jay" Raymond stands next to the flag of the newly established U.S. Space Command, the sixth national armed service, in the Rose Garden at the White House August 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Citing potential threats from China and Russia and the nation’s reliance on satellites for defense operations, Trump said the U.S. needs to launch a 'space force.' Raymond will serve as the first head of Space Command, which will have 87 active units handling operations such as missile warning, satellite surveillance, space control and space support. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images