Unnamed administration officials told NBC News that the change in plans is largely due to Alabama’s restrictive abortion laws while noting the White House denied the abortion ban factored into the decision.
“The belief is [the White House is] delaying any move because of the abortion issue,” one U.S. official told the outlet, while another said, “This is all about abortion politics.”
A White House official told the Washington Examiner that abortion laws are not a factor in the review of the permanent location.
This possible move is the newest twist in a yearslong saga over where the department should base its headquarters permanently. More than two years ago, the secretary of the Air Force announced it would move from its temporary location in Colorado Springs to a U.S. Army post, Redstone Arsenal, which is in Huntsville, Alabama.
Members of Alabama’s congressional delegation were quick to rebuke the possible change, and they noted the Department of Defense inspector general and the Government Accountability Office reviewed the process of selecting Huntsville as the permanent location and that both upheld it, even though the GAO report also identified “significant shortfalls in the transparency and credibility” of the process, while the DOD IG urged the Air Force to develop guidance for future basing decisions.
“Joe Biden is undermining our readiness by politicizing the location of [U.S. Space Command],” Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) said on Monday. “Multiple independent, nonpartisan government reviews have found Space Command headquarters would be best served in Huntsville. … Two independent studies from the Department of Defense Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office nonetheless affirmed the process that ranked Alabama as the best choice for the Space Command. Colorado didn’t make the top three.”
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, described the delayed announcement as “beyond frustrating,” and he urged the DOD and the Biden administration “to stop playing political games and affirm Huntsville as SPACECOM’s new home.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, told the Washington Examiner that the decision shouldn’t be based on abortion, even though he believes Colorado Springs should be the Space Command’s permanent base.
“I think the only backlash would be there will be some disappointed folks in Alabama because they would love to have that facility,” he explained. “But I just don’t see the administration making a decision on purely political grounds, like whether abortion is favored or not favored here or there. I would hope that they’re professional enough to make national security the focus of how they make their decision.”
Tuberville, the former college football coach-turned-U.S. senator, has become a thorn in the Department of Defense’s side in recent months.
Tuberville began blocking all civilian, flag, and general officer nominations as well as high-level promotions within the Pentagon in February due to a new Pentagon policy paying for the travel expenses of a service member or their spouse who has to go out-of-state to obtain an abortion due to local laws. The policy was in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.
Top Pentagon officials have warned in recent weeks that Tuberville’s hold will have consequences for national security.
He is barring the Senate from advancing 196 Department of Defense military nominees while the Department of Defense projects approximately 650 general and flag officers will require Senate confirmation between now and the end of the year.
Tuberville believes the current policy violates the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used for most abortions. The Department of Justice “conclude[d] that DoD may lawfully expend funds for this purpose under its express statutory authorities and, independently, under the necessary expense doctrine.”