'Space Command' site team will visit Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal

By LEE ROOP | Alabama Media Group, Birmingham | Published: May 29, 2019

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Tribune News Service) — Sometime very soon, perhaps as early as this week, an important delegation will arrive in Huntsville. 

The delegation is coming to see Redstone Arsenal, the last on its tour list of six military bases still in the running to be home of the headquarters of the nation’s new U.S. Space Command.

This isn’t the Space Force. That’s the first new military branch to be established in decades. It’s the Space Command established by President Trump in December, and its first mission will be to command America’s defensive satellites and to defend those satellites from attack. Its broader mission is to bring America’s space forces under one umbrella, and the command is also being called “a down payment” on the Space Force Trump wants to create.

Four of the six site finalists are in Colorado, one is in California and one is Redstone Arsenal. The winner gets about 1,200 headquarters jobs, plus the industry jobs that will follow the command’s expected growth as America joins other nations in putting defensive and, likely, offensive satellites in space.

The touring group is following an official Air Force handbook called the Standard Air Force Strategic Basing Process. This road map looks at sites’ ability to meet specific requirements, including room for growth, an airfield capable of handling a C-17 Globemaster transport airplane, nearness to other space defense operations, and startup costs. The environmental impact is also a factor. A decision on the winner is expected this summer.

Right now, the odds say Colorado is the favorite. Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond of Colorado Springs is the officer nominated to head the new command. Four of the six finalists are in Colorado: Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base.

The “basing process” is designed to keep politicians informed but out of base location decisions. But a process never stops politicians from speaking if they want. For example, Florida lawmakers this week are questioning the Air Force’s decision to drop Cape Canaveral from the finalists.

California’s two senators, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara County have urged the Air Force to designate finalist Vandenberg Air Force as the command site.

All three of the California lawmakers are Democrats, and the two protesting Florida senators are Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott.

Alabama has a powerful Republican senator in Sen. Richard Shelby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shelby has kept his lobbying quiet if he has been doing any.

Guiding Huntsville’s efforts are members of the longstanding “BRAC committee” that has helped bring new commands to Alabama in the past. BRAC stands for Base Realignment and Closure, the process the Army uses to downsize its physical footprint.

Huntsville’s case includes the fact that the arsenal has multiple space operations now. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command is at Redstone; as are the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Missile and Space Intelligence Agency; U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center; Defense Intelligence Agency Missile & Space Intelligence Center; and U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

And with 38,000 acres behind its fences, there is also room at Redstone to grow.

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