New Mexico’s hopes to house the U.S. Space Command in Albuquerque were dashed Wednesday after the Air Force announced it would place the installation at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, the senior member of the state’s congressional delegation and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized the move in a statement, strongly suggesting politics and not worthiness were the prime considerations in the decision.
“To rush such a large and consequential basing decision, mere days before the end of the Trump administration, should rightly lead to serious questions of political impropriety,” Heinrich said in a statement. “After postponing the original site visit to Albuquerque last December, the Air Force evaluation team collected data on Albuquerque’s candidacy less than a week ago. I don’t see how it is possible to properly evaluate one of the Air Force’s final candidates in less than a week and come to a decision on something so important.
“I have asked the incoming Biden administration to take a close look at this process and review the merits of this decision,” he added.
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján said the Trump administration’s decision did not reflect the exacting screening process it had promised.
“When the Trump administration announced its criteria for the new home of U.S. Space Command, it promised a ‘comprehensive and transparent’ screening process,” Lujan said in a statement. “Reports that President Trump overturned the military’s decision call into question the integrity of the entire process. Congress should immediately initiate an investigation into this decision, and I intend to bring this issue up with the incoming administration.”
State officials said they believed Albuquerque had a strong case, citing the state’s strong Air Force presence and its longtime ties to the space industry and Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences.
In addition to Albuquerque and Huntsville, the other finalists were: Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. (currently the home of the Space Command); Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Fla.; Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb.; and Joint Base San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.
The U.S. Space Force, created last year under President Donald Trump, is the first branch added to the nation’s military since the 1940s.