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A new report finds 'shortfalls' in how Trump decided to move U.S. Space Command

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

One of the last decisions Donald Trump made while still president was to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. The Colorado congressional delegation protested, but at the time, the Defense Department called the move, quote, "reasonable." Now a new report has found significant shortfalls in how the decision was made.

Colorado Public Radio's Dan Boyce joins us with more. Hi, Dan.

DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: Hi there.

PFEIFFER: Dan, first a clarification - is U.S. Space Command the same thing as the new Space Force that President Trump created?

BOYCE: No, it is not, although that is a really common misconception. So Space Force is a whole new branch of the U.S. military - right? - just like the Army or the Air Force. And Space Command - let's think about it more like a mission that all the branches of the military are a part of. It does things like making sure our satellites aren't getting hacked or attacked or whatever and keeping track of what capabilities our potential adversaries may have up there. It was initially headquartered in Colorado Springs, where I am, and is still currently. But in 2019 the Pentagon said, hey, let's have cities compete to be the permanent headquarters.

PFEIFFER: And to compete, is that a departure from how decisions are typically made on where to locate military bases?

BOYCE: That is a departure. And ultimately, Huntsville, Ala., won that contest. But then Pentagon leaders decided to overrule those results and keep Space Command in Colorado arguing it was better for national security and because it would take a huge effort to reestablish it somewhere else. President Trump then, though, he overruled the Pentagon. He overruled their overruling. So at this point, Space Command is scheduled to move to Alabama in 2026.

PFEIFFER: And why did Donald Trump overrule the Pentagon?

BOYCE: Well, if you ask congressional - the congressional delegates from Colorado, they'll say he was rewarding Alabama, giving political favors and shoring up votes in the Senate days before his second impeachment trial. And I should say that both Republicans and Democrats in Colorado's delegation made those accusations.

PFEIFFER: So Colorado's delegation is complaining that Trump's decision was political, but can they do anything to reverse it?

BOYCE: They're sure trying. They requested multiple reviews of this decision, and the Defense Department did review it. And in May, they called the decision to move Space Command to Alabama a reasonable one. But then this month, the Government Accountability Office issued their own report, and this at the request of Colorado House Republican Doug Lamborn. And the GAO said the Pentagon's decision to move Space Command had, quote, "significant shortfalls in its transparency and credibility."

PFEIFFER: Does that GAO finding basically in favor of Colorado give the Colorado delegation any leverage?

BOYCE: Well, Congressman Lamborn, he says Colorado's two Democratic senators should appeal to President Biden and sort of urge him to revisit or overturn the decision.

PFEIFFER: And do the two Democratic senators say they plan to do that?

BOYCE: Well, Senator John Hickenlooper, he dismissed the idea. He says, you know, we're not going to play politics with this. That's what we're saying happened in the first place with Trump. But then Hickenlooper kind of described doing basically what Lamborn was talking about anyway.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: I think we need to sit down, make sure that we have the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting with the president, and everybody gets to lay out their interpretation of the facts. And I have every confidence that the Command will stay in Colorado Springs.

PFEIFFER: Dan, is there any indication that the Biden administration will reverse former President Trump's decision and keep Space Command in Colorado?

BOYCE: The White House has not responded specifically to either the Defense Department or the GAO reports on how that decision was made. But before these reports came out, Biden's defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, did say he would be examining the move for political interference.

PFEIFFER: Dan Boyce from Colorado Public Radio, thank you.

BOYCE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.