Space Command HQ decision not tied to senator or abortion, White House says

WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s decision to nix his predecessor Donald Trump’s plan to move the headquarters of the U.S. military’s Space Command from Colorado to Alabama is unrelated to a dispute with Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville or concern over Alabama’s abortion restrictions, the White House said.

A day after Biden’s administration announced that Space Command headquarters would remain in Colorado Springs instead of relocating to Huntsville as Trump had planned, the White House denied that partisan motivations were behind the decision.

“The deciding factor for President Biden in deciding to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs was operational readiness, pure and simple,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

Space Command is responsible for American military operations in space.

Tuberville, who represents Alabama in the Senate and is an ally of the Republican Trump, has put a hold on hundreds of Pentagon appointments to protest a Defense Department policy that provides paid leave and reimburses costs for female service members who travel outside the state where they are stationed in order to obtain an abortion.

The Pentagon policy followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn a 1973 ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. Numerous states including Alabama have since imposed Republican-backed abortion restrictions.

The Space Command headquarters decision had “nothing to do with Senator Tuberville’s holds, had nothing to do with partisan politics,” Kirby said.

Alabama, which now prohibits nearly all abortions, has threatened to prosecute residents who travel out of state for abortions.

“Alabama’s restrictive reproductive care laws were not a factor in this decision,” a White House official told Reuters on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Biden, a Democrat, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have criticized Tuberville’s block on military promotions. The blocks are preventing armed forces personnel from retiring, disrupting relocations and school schedules and undermining the military, according to the administration.

The U.S. Marine Corps is without a Senate-confirmed military leader for the first time in more than a century because of the blocks.

The Pentagon said Biden’s Space Command headquarters decision would ensure its “peak readiness” during a critical period. The U.S. Space Force, which supplies troops and training to Space Command, has grown to 14,000 enlisted and civilian personnel since it was started in 2019 during Trump’s presidency, and has often highlighted hiring and promotion of women.

Tuberville said in a statement on Monday that Biden’s decision “looks like blatant patronage politics, and it sets a dangerous precedent that military bases are now to be used as rewards for political supporters rather than for our security.”

The planned move to Huntsville would have resulted in 1,600 new jobs in Alabama, local media reported when the relocation was first announced in January 2021.

Reporting by Katharine Jackson and Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham, Heather Timmons and Caitlin Webber

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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