A long-anticipated decision on whether the headquarters for U.S. Space Command will remain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, or move to Huntsville, Alabama, a saga that has been drawn out since the waning days of President Donald Trump's administration, will conclude soon, according to the service's top general.
When asked by Military.com, Gen. James H. Dickinson, the commander of U.S. Space Command, told attendees at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies online event on Tuesday that the decision should be announced any day now.
That announcement will come after reports from the Pentagon Inspector General and a Government Accountability Office analyzing the choice were wrapped earlier this year amid concerns that the decision hadn't been adequately scrutinized.
"I think the decision is going to come out shortly," Dickinson said. "I don't have a date or time. That is a decision by the secretary of the Air Force, and I know that they have been doing a very deliberate analysis of the two reports that came out."
An environmental study, one of the last steps required before a decision could be made, concluded in late September. The final decision now rests with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and department officials have said, like Dickinson, that the approval is coming soon.
"I know that Secretary Kendall has been doing a very methodical analysis of those two reports," Dickinson said. "And so, quite frankly, I look forward to the decision."
U.S. Space Command -- SPACECOM -- was reactivated in August 2019, and was temporarily stationed at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. SPACECOM is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force organizes and trains space personnel.
In January 2021, the Department of the Air Force announced that the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, was selected as the preferred location for U.S. Space Command's headquarters, a move that would entail new construction.
Since that announcement, members of Colorado's congressional delegation in Washington have been fighting to have that decision reviewed in hopes of keeping the base, as well as 1,400 jobs and millions in funding, in their home state.
In August 2021, while speaking on a local Alabama radio show, Trump said the move was completely his decision, which sparked worries that he would short-circuit the selection process.
"Space Force -- I sent to Alabama," Trump told the "Rick & Bubba" radio show at the time. "I hope you know that. [They] said they were looking for a home, and I single-handedly said, 'Let's go to Alabama.' They wanted it. I said, 'Let's go to Alabama. I love Alabama.'"
Two watchdog reports, requested by members of Colorado's delegation in Washington, followed.
This past May, the findings of a Department of Defense Inspector General's report said that, while the selection process was marred by shoddy record-keeping, the ultimate decision to choose Huntsville was "reasonable."
Two months later, in June, the Government Accountability Office released a report that the choice to move U.S. Space Command headquarters from Colorado to Alabama was marred by an unorganized and unclear process.
While the report did not comment or analyze whether the decision to ultimately choose Huntsville as the home of the U.S. Space Command was acceptable; the congressional watchdog organization did express concerns about "significant shortfalls in its transparency and credibility," as well as the "appearance of bias" in the decision.
The Government Accountability Office report also did not address whether Trump, or any senior military official, was responsible for the ultimate selection of Redstone Arsenal.
"Although the Air Force documented the general rationale for selecting Redstone Arsenal in an action memorandum and accompanying documents, there was not consensus among the officials we interviewed regarding who ultimately made the decision to name Redstone Arsenal as the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters, including the role of the then-president in making the decision," the report said.
Most recently, the Supreme Court's ruling in June to overturn Roe v. Wade -- known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization -- has also been brought up in the debate to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama.
That ruling, which ultimately left the right to an abortion up to the states, has created uncertainty over whether service members would be able to receive abortion services or other reproductive health care.
Moving Space Command from Colorado, where abortion access is unrestricted, to Alabama, where it is illegal with limited exceptions, could change life for service members assigned to the command, and it has raised a red flag for some Colorado lawmakers who believe it will hurt troops' quality of life, as well as harm the military's retention efforts.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., told Military.com in August that a potential move of U.S. Space Command to Alabama concerns him for a variety of reasons, but among them is the impact the Supreme Court's ruling has on service members who have to relocate.
"I'm deeply concerned about how the Dobbs decision and state abortion bans will affect Space Command's workforce and readiness if the command leaves Colorado," Bennet said in an emailed statement to Military.com.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.