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Politics

Decrying Trump's Remarks On Space Command Location, Colorado Lawmakers Look To Investigations

trump space com 2
Courtesy White House
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Former President Donald Trump announces the creation of U.S. Space Command at the White House on Aug. 29, 2019.

For months, Colorado politicians have alleged that just before former president Donald Trump left the White House, he wrongly meddled in a process that named Alabama as the future home of U.S. Space Command.

As Sen. Michael Bennet told KUNC in June, “I'm pretty sure that (Trump) was in the room when the decision was made.”

Bennet hoped two ongoing investigations might finally settle the question. Now, Trump’s remarks late last week to Alabama’s syndicated Rick & Bubba radio show should figure into those investigations, Bennet said, calling them an admission that showed that the decision wasn’t one made on merits.

“They said, ‘We’re looking for a home’ and I single-handedly said, ‘Let's go to Alabama,’” Trump told Rick & Bubba. “They wanted it. I said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ I love Alabama.”

Trump’s unprompted comments led to an outpouring of statements from Colorado politicians. They said Trump interfered in the Air Force basing process that selected the Army’s Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, as the command’s future headquarters. The command, which is tasked with protecting satellites that provide Americans with everything from global positioning to electronic banking, is temporarily operating out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

“I remain troubled by reports that the former president’s political considerations led to the final decision to relocate Space Command,” Bennet, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Former President Trump’s admission suggests that national security and cost were clearly not his priorities. His recent interview further underscores why we need to investigate the previous administration’s last minute decision to uproot Space Command from its home in Colorado Springs.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, is also looking to investigations into the decision-making process, telling Space News, “I would hope that Congress would see fit to revisit the entire selection process, perhaps start it all over again, or intervene in some other way.”

The Defense Department’s Inspector General and Government Accountability Office are conducting investigations. They are expected to focus on the basing process, but it is unclear exactly what direction they will take.

Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, called Trump’s remarks proof that the basing decision was “strictly political,” but concern over the process is not limited to Colorado. Adam Schiff and Mark Warner, the respective chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees, recently reached out to President Joe Biden, writing that moving the command from Colorado could pose a threat to national security and intelligence-gathering efforts.

The Air Force, which made the initial announcement, has defended the decision through its acting secretary, John Roth. In June, Lamborn grilled Roth during a committee hearing.

“Our understanding is that this was a political decision made by the last administration and the Air Force, while initially selecting Colorado Springs, had to go back and scramble to justify a different siting decision,” Lamborn said.

Roth responded, “I have personally no evidence that the decision was politically motivated. It was the result of our strategic basing process.”

Roth said at the time that he, too, would look to the results of the DOD and GAO investigations that are expected to wrap up in the coming months.

The process for determining the base’s permanent headquarters involved several criteria, according to the Air Force, including the availability of a qualified workforce, housing and child care, the quality of schools, and costs to the military.

Trump, in a February 2020 campaign rally in Colorado Springs, stirred hopes when he spoke about the city as a possible permanent home to the command.

“You have all of the infrastructure,” Trump told the crowd. “So you're being very strongly considered for the Space Command, very strongly.”

On stage with him was now-former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, as Trump told the audience that Democratic Gov. Jared Polis had approached him about the command.

“He showed up because he wanted to lobby to see if they could get it,” Trump said. “That's OK. All right. And we are going to be making that decision, Cory, when we make that decision.”