During a half-hour news conference Jan. 13, Mayor John Suthers labeled the decision to move Space Command to Huntsville, Alabama, a political move to reward loyalists of the president.
The President supported Tommy Tuberville in a primary race against his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who he viewed as disloyal for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Tuberville defeated Sessions. He also voted in objection to counting electoral votes in Pennsylvania and Arizona, in compliance with the president's wishes, Suthers said. "Bottom line," he said, "There are significant political connections between the president and congressional delegation in Alabama ..."
Suthers also said he, Gov. Jared Polis, Lt. Governor Diana Primavera, Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Colorado Reps. Doug Lamborn and Jason Crow will work together to urge Joe Biden, due to be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, and Congress to overturn the decision.
"There are sources throughout the government, virtually all of them wanting to remain anonymous, that indicate there was, in fact, politics in the result," Suthers said.
Bennet and Hickenlooper told Suthers their sources say the Air Force recommended Colorado Springs as the choice and that Trump overruled it.
Suthers said the local community had promised some $130 million to help the command stand up permanently at Peterson Air Force Base, including land, utilities' assurances, no sales or use taxes charged on construction materials and a child development center to be located at Peterson.
He said the categories of concern to the Air Force were cost to the government for moving, local support of the military and current assets already staged here.
"Folks, there’s no way any community could score higher on those categories than Colorado Springs," he said.
Suthers and Chamber of Commerce & EDC executive Dirk Draper said they will file a Freedom of Information Act request for the Air Force recommendation and why it was not followed. Suthers also urged all media to submit their own FOIA requests as well.
An Air Force official tells the Indy on background that "The White House did not pressure the Air Force to make a decision one way or another."
The sustained campaign by state and local officials to capture Space Command's headquarters didn't work.
The Trump administration has chosen Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, for the command that's temporarily based at Peterson Air Force Base here in Colorado Springs. The choice drew sharp criticism from Gov. Jared Polis and others, who vow to keep fighting to eventually overturn that decision.
Permanent siting of the command here would have brought 1,400 mostly high-paying jobs to Colorado Springs and given the city the distinction of being home to not one, but two top military commands. Northern Command already is based at Peterson. Peterson remains the provisional headquarters for Space Command for five and a half more years.
In a statement, Polis said the decision to move the command could have far-reaching impact locally as well as for the nation.
“Colorado’s proud military heritage, unparalleled aerospace ecosystem, and unmatched quality of life for our service members and their families make us the epicenter of national security space and the only permanent home for U.S. Space Command," Polis said.
"Reports that the in-depth military process found Colorado Springs to be the best location for military readiness and cost and recommended Colorado to the President only to be overruled for politically motivated reasons are deeply concerning.
"This move threatens jobs, could cause serious economic damage, and upend the lives of hundreds of military and civilian families that were counting on U.S Space Command staying at home in Colorado Springs as well as harm military readiness. It would negatively impact the mission which Colorado Springs has been flawlessly executing, ensuring our national security in the space domain. This misguided decision would cost American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars and would be fiscally irresponsible if it is allowed to stand. We pledge to work with our federal delegation to restore integrity to the process as it unfolds. The work of so many partners in Colorado Springs and across the state has been critical to the shared effort to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado, and we are grateful for their partnership.”
Even Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, a staunch Trump supporter, labeled the decision "horrendous."
“There’s no way around it: relocating SPACECOM will materially damage our national security," Lamborn wrote in a statement. "As we speak, our near-peer adversaries, Russia and China, are actively working to defeat our space capabilities. Moving a critical institution like Space Command for political reasons unrelated to national security would be foolish at the best of times. ... This decision was not based on what is best for America’s national interests." He vowed to "fight this proposed move" but didn't say how.
The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC issued a lengthy release, renewing arguments about why Colorado Springs is the best site and also alleging the decision was based on politics.
"Sources at the White House and the Air Force have confirmed the Air Force’s site selection team recommended the permanent headquarters be located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. President Trump ignored their recommendation and selected Redstone Arsenal," the release said. "The Chamber & EDC will work with state and federal leaders to encourage the incoming Biden administration to accept the U.S. Air Force’s recommendation."
Also in a prepared statement, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said, “I am extremely disappointed by this development. I have said from the beginning, that if this was a merit decision, Colorado Springs would prevail. It is not in the interest of national security and the American taxpayer to move Space Command. We made an extremely strong case for the city, and we had every indication that the Air Force was impressed by the community commitments we made in support of Space Command's future. My concern is that politics played a significant role in this result. It would be wholly appropriate, and we would request, that Congress and the Biden administration direct the U.S. Air Force to provide full details regarding the recommendations it made and make public the role President Trump played in this decision."
The Chamber's chief defense development officer Reggie Ash said in the release, “We are very disappointed in the outcome. The decision needs to [be] based on merit, not politics. Colorado Springs will continue to work towards the greater mission at hand and continue to support our local U.S. Air Force Academy graduates, the work of our military installations, innovation from the private aerospace sector, and strong talent pipeline in Colorado Springs, and throughout the entire state of Colorado."
If those efforts are unsuccessful, the economic impact of losing the command would be significant, considering many defense contractors that interface with Air Force space functions have offices or are based here. Moreover, the demand for housing likely would diminish as military members relocate to follow the command to Alabama.
The Chamber had previously estimated the impact of the command to add $450 million annually in economic output, along with up to $1 billion in military construction funding to build a new headquarters building.
Colorado Springs was competing with five other locales. Besides Huntsville, they included Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida and Port San Antonio in Texas.