Further Delay in Establishing Permanent US Space Command HQ

Foreign Affairs

Washington: US Space Command could face another six-month delay to establishing a permanent headquarters, according to the latest version of the fiscal 2024 defence policy bill.

A provision in the bill would prevent the command, which is responsible for military operations in space, from funding projects to construct a headquarters until two watchdog agencies complete reports evaluating the decision this summer to base the organization in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Those reports, from the Defence Department inspector general and the US comptroller, are due in June 2024.

House and Senate lawmakers are expected to vote on the compromise bill, released December 6, in the coming weeks.

If adopted, the provision and the associated delay would continue what has been a four-year effort to identify a home for Space Command. Despite basing decisions from former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden and a series of watchdog reviews, the organisation has been temporarily headquartered in Colorado since it was re-established in 2019.

The basing decision has largely centred on two sites: Huntsville, Ala., and Colorado Springs. As he was leaving office in 2021, Trump announced Huntsville as his choice to host the command’s headquarters — a decision met with immediate pushback from Colorado lawmakers, who called the Air Force-led process “fundamentally flawed.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn, requested a Government Accountability Office review of the decision and a DoD inspector general investigation. Both agencies concluded in 2022 that while the basing process lacked transparency and credibility, the Air Force followed the law when choosing Huntsville.

The Pentagon, in the midst of those watchdog reviews, initiated a new selection process. Despite the conclusions from GAO and the inspector general’s office, the Biden administration announced July 31 that Space Command would remain in Colorado Springs, reversing Trump’s decision.

In turn, House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama, used his influence to quickly launch a congressional investigation. He threatened to subpoena DoD officials for documentation of the Air Force’s selection process and called for additional reviews from GAO and the inspector general.

As the debate continues over where Space Command’s headquarters will land, DoD officials have said they’re concerned about the organisation’s “operational readiness” the longer it operates in a provisional state.