Military Briefs: February 23, 2023

News  /  Military

Sen. Michael Bennet (Rich Koele /

Compiled by Bryan Grossman and Helen Lewis

Bennet urges Biden to block Space Command move, citing national security worries

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, is urging President Joe Biden’s administration to reverse a 2021 decision to relocate U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama, saying moving the headquarters would delay operations and harm national security, reported last week.

Bennet gave an impassioned floor speech Feb. 15 criticizing the decision to move Space Command’s headquarters, a process which has been underway since the waning days of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Moving the command from Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama, would cause further delays in setting up a permanent headquarters as tensions continue to rise with China, Bennet argued.

“We cannot let China or Russia set the rules of the road for space in the 21st century,” Bennet posted on Twitter prior to his speech. “America has to lead, and we don’t have time to waste.”

Space Command, which is responsible for military operations related to space, was reactivated in August 2019 and temporarily run from Peterson.

In January 2021, during the last days of the Trump administration, the Department of the Air Force selected the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the preferred location for Space Command’s permanent headquarters.

Since that announcement, members of Colorado’s congressional delegation in Washington have been fighting to have the decision reviewed in hopes of keeping the base, as well as 1,400 jobs and millions of dollars of economic impact, in their home state, reported.

But Bennet argued on the Senate floor Wednesday that his fight to reverse the decision goes beyond wanting to protect assets in his home state. He said keeping the headquarters in Colorado will allow it to reach full operational capacity sooner amid rising tensions with competitors.

“I’m on the floor today to remind people here of the importance of this issue, the urgency of this issue, not just for Colorado, not even for Colorado, but for the country as a whole and for our national security as a whole,” he said. “That in the end is what the American people deserve here, because our opponents and our competitors in space are not waiting for us to get out of our own way.”

In August 2021, while speaking on an Alabama radio show, Trump said the move was his decision, which sparked speculation that the former president may have intervened in the process for choosing the base, something that could give ammunition to legal challenges.

“Space Force — I sent to Alabama,” Trump told the Rick & Bubba radio show at the time. “I hope you know that. [They] said they were looking for a home, and I single-handedly said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ They wanted it. I said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama. I love Alabama.’”

Two watchdog reports, requested by members of Colorado’s delegation in Washington, followed. They did not point to any major issues with Huntsville as a location for the base, but did scrutinize the process for choosing the location, reported.

This past May, the findings of a Department of Defense inspector general report said that, while the selection process was marred by shoddy recordkeeping, the ultimate decision to choose Huntsville was “reasonable.”

And in June, the Government Accountability Office released a report saying that Space Command’s move from Colorado to Alabama was driven by an unorganized and unclear process. While that report did not comment on or analyze whether the choice of Huntsville as the home of Space Command was acceptable, the congressional watchdog organization did express concerns about “significant shortfalls in its transparency and credibility,” as well as the “appearance of bias” in the decision.

“I think it is fair to say that we are here not representing the parochial interests of our state, but representing the national security interests in the United States and the incredible importance of this Biden administration not ratifying a political decision that was made in the last few days of the Trump administration because decisions of this importance shouldn’t be made this way,” Bennet said. “They should be made in the interest of our national security.”

Last month, Bennet threatened to hold up nominees for the Pentagon’s top positions because Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had declined to meet and discuss the Space Command decision.

After voting against Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of defense for energy and installations, Bennet’s office has since been in communication with the Pentagon, reported.

An environmental study, one of the final steps required before the decision can be finalized, has been completed. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall will give the ultimate approval, which department officials have said for months is coming soon.

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Army fitness test and body composition changes coming

The Army Times reported last week the Army has set a timeline for reforms on how it monitors soldiers’ body fat, according to the service’s top noncommissioned officer, who also previewed potential fitness test shifts.

“The often-maligned ‘tape test’ remains the standard across the force for measuring a soldier’s body fat if the individual is not compliant with height and weight screening tables,” according to the Army Times. “But change looms: a major study led by Army researchers concluded in late 2022 considered alternative measurement methods and potential policy changes.”

One pending change was to develop a policy to exempt soldiers from body composition testing if they score 540 or higher on the Army Combat Fitness Test. “An Army directive implementing the body fat exemption for soldiers who score a 540 or higher on the new fitness test is undergoing staff review,” and should be finished in March, the Army Times reported. Additional changes before April are expected though no further information is currently available.

“But other services’ recent actions may foreshadow the Army’s options. The Marine Corps now uses scanners and other technology to verify a member’s body fat if they fail the tape test,” according to the Army Times. “The Air Force plans to implement a new waist-only body fat calculation in April.”

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