The Air Force announced the permanent location for many more U.S. Space Force units Wednesday — and none of them are in Huntsville, Alabama, suggesting the service may be moving ahead with at least part of the design it originally sought for the new force before it became entangled in politics.
Four more Space Force missions will now be based in Colorado Springs, a notable choice during a larger and now politicized battle over where to locate the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command. Colorado Springs, which is housing Space Command’s temporary headquarters, was the Air Force’s preferred location, but Donald Trump, in the final days of his presidency, selected Alabama instead.
While the Pentagon and White House have said the decisions are not directly linked, Alabama has strict anti-abortion laws, and its Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville earlier this year announced he would hold up all military nominations until the Department of Defense rescinds a new policy that would allow female service members to be reimbursed for travel costs if they have to go out of state for reproductive care.
Tuberville’s office was not immediately available for comment Wednesday evening.
The Space Force announcement came as President Joe Biden left for Colorado Springs to speak during Thursday’s commencement ceremony at the nearby Air Force Academy.
Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet said he’ll be using the president’s visit as another opportunity to press for the command.
“As President Biden and his administration near a final basing decision for Space Command, we urge them to restore the integrity of this process and make a decision in the interest of our national security — to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs,” his office said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Air Force has been moving forward with getting fully dug in at Colorado Springs, where more than 20 of the military’s space missions are now based. The Air Force Academy now has a space curriculum and graduates Space Force Guardians alongside its Air Force cadets.
“Colorado Springs continues to prove itself as the premier location for our nation’s space defense operations,” Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said in a statement announcing the selection.
The Space Force, founded in December 2019, is the smallest of the military branches, with just under 8,400 personnel. But it has seen its budget rapidly rise as the U.S. has scrambled to defend against a rapid militarization of space, such as North Korea’s failed Wednesday launch of a ballistic missile believed to be carrying a spy satellite.
The four new missions in Colorado Springs include Delta 15, a headquarters unit for the service’s space operations command; Space Delta 12, a test and evaluation unit; and two surveillance squadrons.
Other locations announced Wednesday as new permanent homes for Space Force missions are in Florida and New Mexico.
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.