WASHINGTON ― House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers is asking three top Defense Department officials to testify before Congress after the Biden administration revoked a previous decision to place the Space Command headquarters in his home state of Alabama and instead designated Colorado as its home base.
The Alabama Republican on Tuesday invited Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Space Command leader Gen. James Dickinson and Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman to testify on what he called President Joe Biden’s “politically motivated” basing decision.
“When the Secretary of the Air Force finally made a decision, he upheld his predecessors’ decision to base U.S. Space Command in Huntsville, Alabama,” said Rogers. “President Biden then usurped the Air Force Secretary’s authority and named Colorado Springs the permanent basing site for U.S. Space Command in order to improve his political standing for next year’s re-election.”
“We will get answers on President Biden’s political manipulation of the selection process,” he added.
White House and Pentagon officials have rejected those accusations.
After a two-year saga and an increasingly acrimonious fight between the Alabama and Colorado congressional delegations, the Biden administration finally announced in July that Colorado Springs would be the permanent home of the Space Command headquarters.
The Associated Press reported that Kendall preferred Huntsville – home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and the Missile Defense Agency – as the permanent location, whereas Dickinson wanted it in Colorado Springs, which houses Space Command’s temporary headquarters.
Biden’s ultimate decision to place it in Colorado Springs drew sharp rebukes from the Alabama delegation, with Rogers noting “the fight is far from over.” Rogers threatened to subpoena the Defense Department earlier this month for documents and interview related to the decision.
Prior to the final announcement, Rogers vowed to use his position as Armed Services chairman to hold up Pentagon requests to reprogram funds – except for reprogramming requests that affect troop compensation – in protest of the overdue basing decision. He also added language to the fiscal 2024 defense policy bill that would freeze half of Kendall’s travel budget and halt construction at the temporary facility in Colorado Springs until the Biden administration receives a justification for the final basing decision.
Rogers voted against certifying Biden’s 2020 election victory, and his arguments that the final Space Command basing decision were politically motivated mirrors similar assertions from the Colorado delegation after the Pentagon announced Huntsville would be Space Command’s home in January 2021 during the final days of the Trump administration.
After the outgoing Trump administration announced it would move the base to Huntsville from the provisional Colorado Springs location, Colorado Democrats argued it was an act of political retaliation because Biden won that swing state in the 2020 election.
A May 2022 report by the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General found the Air Force followed all relevant laws and policies when selecting Huntsville. But the report also found the rules themselves may have been flawed, resulting in a suboptimal decision.
A separate June 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office found the Air Force did not follow best practices when making the basing decision.
Kendall subsequently launched a months-long review of the dispute before Biden weighed in on the impasse in favor of Colorado Springs.
Rogers has two other Alabama allies on the House Armed Services Committee when he grills Kendall, Dickinson and Saltzman: Republican Rep. Dale Strong, who represents Huntsville, and Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell. The only Colorado lawmaker on the committee is Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who chairs the strategic forces subcommittee and represents Colorado Springs. Like Rogers, Lamborn also voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.