The Air Force is sticking by its decision — and the process that led to it — to move the headquarters of the U.S. Space Command from its temporary location in Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama.
“Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, was selected as the preferred location because it compared more favorably across more factors and at a lower cost than any other candidate location,” Sarah Fiocco of the Air Force Press Desk said in an emailed response to questions.
But the Air Force continues to refuse to release the documents that show details of how it came to its decision because the decision is not final. And won’t be until sometime in 2022 when an environmental assessment of the Huntsville site is completed.
In other words, we’ll show you how and why we did this after we do it.
It’s a confounding process, made worse in a political environment where nobody trusts or believes anyone else. In this case, even when they’re usually on the same side.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, is a stalwart backer of the military and former President Donald Trump. Yet he was incredulous when the Air Force and Trump announced in January that Huntsville was the “preferred location” for the headquarters.
Lamborn and other state and local politicians demanded to know how Huntsville could possibly have been chosen over Colorado Springs.
In an email, the Air Force said it was “completely transparent regarding how it came to its decision” and provided feedback to the “stakeholders” in the six locales contending to host the headquarters.
But it has steadfastly refused to release all the documents to the public.
It’s emailed response as to why said: “Because the Department of the Air Force has not made a final basing decision, the documents containing data regarding each candidate location’s suitability to host U.S. Space Command headquarters are pre-decisional and not available for release.
“A final decision will not be reached until the completion of the environmental review.”
New Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has told the Air Force he is confident in its decision-making process.
Frank Kendall III, President Biden’s nominee for Air Force Secretary, declined at his May 25 confirmation hearing to reveal cost estimates for moving U.S. Space Command headquarters to Huntsville, according to an article in AL.com. [https://www.al.com/news/huntsville/2021/05/pentagon-nominees-wont-second-guess-space-command-move-to-huntsville.html]
That’s because since the decision was announced in January and as the Trump administration transitioned out and the Biden administration came in, two reviews of the Air Force decision were launched.
A review of the decision-making process by the Defense Department Inspector General is expected to be finished later this year. Lamborn’s request for a review by the General Accounting Office was granted in March, although the GAO said it would work with the IG’s office to ensure there was no duplication of effort.
Nobody in the upper echelons of the Pentagon has publicly expressed doubt about the process or decision.
Meanwhile, tidbits of information about the process have selectively leaked out from the feedback given the so-called stakeholders. (Aren’t taxpayers stakeholders?)
Trouble is, some of it is outdated.
The initial selection process included a scoring system based on four factors broken into 21 criteria, the Air Force said. The six highest scoring applications became the finalists, and lots more information exchanged hands during a qualitative review that led to the selection of Huntsville.
The Air Force deemed all the runner-up locations as reasonable alternatives.
But five places had to lose out, Colorado Springs among them.
I still believe that if the selection documents had been officially released when the decision was announced we could have avoided much of this political brouhaha.
We must hope that people trust the review process that’s underway and the Air Force can move on with establishing the U.S. Space Command headquarters at the best operational and most cost-effective location.
In reality, neither state will be diminished in the world of space programs if they don’t get this headquarters.
Several Colorado bases already are part of the new U.S. Space Force (Buckley Space Force Base being renamed just last week), and the state is developing it aerospace alley. Huntsville, likewise, will always be America’s Rocket City.
Regardless of the outcome, maybe they can all just get over their parochial interests for the sake of the military space program.
Sue McMillin is a long-time Colorado reporter and editor who worked for The Gazette and Durango Herald. Now a regular columnist for The Denver Post and a freelance writer, she lives in Cañon City. Email her at [email protected]
To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.
Source: Read Full Article