“We all look forward to moving forward with a final decision as soon as we can,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall.
WASHINGTON – During a May 13 hearing of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) asked Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall to lay out next steps in the possible relocation of the US Space Command.
“Assuming the GAO does not recommend overturning the original base decision” to move Space Command from Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, Aderholt asked, how long will it take to do this?
“We all look forward to moving forward with a final decision as soon as we can,” Kendall told Aderholt.
The Government Accountability Office has completed one of two independent investigations into how the Air Force determined its preferred location for US Space Command.
Alleging the decision was unduly influenced by the previous Trump administration, Colorado lawmakers asked the GAO and the Defense Department’s inspector general to review the process that led the air force in January 2021 recommend Redstone Arsenal, in Huntsville, Alabama.
The IG said in a report last week that investigators found no evidence of undue influence. Many of the details of how the six candidates’ bases were scored and comments made by senior US military officials were redacted from the IG report.
The GAO report is also being heavily redacted. TThe Department of Defense designated it CUI, short for cControlled but not classified information.
“We are working as quickly as possible to develop a public version of our report; I anticipate it coming in the next few weeks,” a GAO spokesman said. SpaceNews. GAO has shared your report with members of Congress and staff who requested it and “demonstrated a need to know,” the GAO spokesman said.
One of the lawmakers briefed on the GAO report, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), said the GAO “confirmed that during the comprehensive process of the US Air Force, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, was the highest scoring location on the assessment. phase, the highest ranked location in the selection phase and the location with the most advantages in the final decision matrix”.
He also said that the GAO was “critical of last-minute attempts to elevate a much lower-ranked facility to the number two position. That artificial action gave the appearance of partiality.”
Kendall said at the HAC-D hearing that her office has not yet reviewed all of the final reports. Under the standard baseline process, the next step would be to conduct an environmental review “as well as look at some other considerations before finalizing the decision,” she said.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental effects of their proposed actions before making decisions.
Normally, that process would take about four months total, Kendall said. It would take three months to complete the evaluation and one month to allow for public comment. “I am very hopeful that one way or another we will get a final decision in the next few months,” she said.
If Redstone Arsenal passes the environmental review and no major issues arise, it would still take several years to build the new headquarters.
Kendall noted that a new building would have to be built that meets the requirements of a military command headquarters.