Jun 05, 2023

Ohio lawmakers make wild card pitch to host Space Command headquarters

WASHINGTON — Roughly half of Ohio's congressional delegation is wading into the standoff over Space Command's future headquarters, currently between Colorado and Alabama, with Ohioans making a last-minute pitch for the White House and the Pentagon to put the command in their state instead.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, led five other House Democrats and two House Republicans from his state in a letter asking the Biden administration to place the headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The letter, addressed to President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman, touted the Air Force and NASA installations that Ohio already hosts. These include the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, the National Space Intelligence Center, and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

"These facilities support key space-related operations, including innovation in space components and technology," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which Brown highlighted on Twitter. "Co-locating the U.S. Space Command headquarters with these assets will generate incredible potential for cross-functional collaboration that will greatly enhance the efficiency and the effectiveness of the organization."

The letter's other signatories are Ohio's Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Joyce Beatty, Shontel Brown, Emilia Sykes and Greg Landsman as well as Republican Reps. David Joyce and Max Miller. The nine other Republicans in Ohio's congressional delegation did not sign the letter.

Two years ago, during the final days of the Trump administration, the Air Force announced Huntsville, Alabama — the site of the Army's Redstone Arsenal and home to the Missile Defense Agency — would serve as the new location for Space Command headquarters, moving it from Colorado Springs.

The decision infuriated Colorado's congressional delegation, who asked the Air Force to review the decision. Several Colorado Democrats argued it was an act of political retaliation because Biden won the swing state in the 2020 election.

A May 2022 report by the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General found the Air Force followed all relevant laws and policies when selecting Huntsville. But the report also found the rules themselves may have been flawed, resulting in a less than optimal decision.

A separate June 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office found the Air Force did not follow best practices when making the basing decision.

Kendall is reviewing both reports’ findings, but the final basing decision for Space Command headquarters is long overdue.

NBC News reported last month that the Biden administration may halt plans to move the headquarters to Alabama in part because of the state's new law making abortion a felony punishable up to 99 years in prison for physicians.

Further complicating matters, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has placed a blanket hold on Senate confirmations for hundreds of military promotions over the Pentagon's policy providing leave time and stipends for troops and their family members to travel across state lines in order to receive abortion services.

The Defense Department enacted the policy in February after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, thereby allowing states to enact anti-abortion laws.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.