The Air Force plan to move U.S. Space Command headquarters to Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal drew another congressional challenge in Washington this week, this time from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and another defense from an Alabama senator.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Shaheen questioned the potential environmental impact of moving the headquarters to Alabama and the time a move could take away from the command’s mission of securing American satellites. The command’s temporary headquarters is in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Alabama’s Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a member of the committee, pushed back against Shaheen’s comment about Redstone’s environment and introduced the Air Force review that rated Redstone the best headquarters choice. That assessment also “determined that the (move to Alabama) would not have a significant impact on the quality of the human or natural environment with the incorporation of applicable mitigation measures,” according to a copy obtained earlier by AL.com.
But Shaheen said she was “puzzled, given the urgency” of the command’s mission, why “we’re going to spend several years now trying to move SpaceCom to a new location that’s going to take us, as I understand it, another year-and-a-half before we even know if Redstone is potentially an appropriate location because of environmental concerns.
“Are we reassessing that decision?” Shaheen asked Space Command leader Gen. James Dickinson.
Dickinson repeated his familiar response that he mainly needs a decision on the move. “Based on that decision, I’ll do whatever I need to do to make sure I can achieve my mission,” Dickinson said. But Dickinson also said the command is still busy building “the (operational) infrastructure I need to do the mission” and “we’re a couple or three years away from full operational capability.”
“Wherever you’re located?” Shaheen asked.
“Wherever I’m located,” Dickinson replied.
Dickinson said “personnel” and training are his primary challenges now, not the headquarters issue.
In brief remarks introducing the study, Tuberville cited the potential impact of moving the headquarters to Vandenburg Air Base in California, another candidate for the permanent location. Air Force analysts said moving to California would have had a significant impact on the socioeconomic environment there, especially the local housing market.
Vandenburg was an early candidate for the headquarters, and Tuberville’s staff said later he misspoke citing it at the hearing. Tuberville’s focus was pushing back against Shaheen and getting the Air Force review into the meeting’s official record, staff said.
Shaheen’s office did not respond Wednesday when asked her source for saying it will be “another year-and-a-half before we know” the full environmental picture about Redstone.
The Senate hearing was the second on Capitol Hill this week about the new command and the second attempt by opponents to challenge the headquarters move. The Air Force’s official report of its review, issued in 2021, said the review ranked Redstone “the preferred location” of the six finalists for the permanent headquarters.