In its quest to find a permanent location for the newest combatant command, the Defense Department is expanding the list of potential bases to house U.S. Space Command.
The DoD will begin a "revised approach for determining the permanent location of U.S. Space Command headquarters," according to an Air Force statement published Friday.
"The revised approach considers the newly established U.S. Space Force emerging organizational structure and analyzes its effects on the limited number of highly specialized personnel and infrastructure required to support both the Space Force and Space Command," according to the statement.
U.S. Space Command, the 11th unified combatant command, stood up in August ahead of the establishment of the Space Force. SPACECOM is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force, the newest military branch, organizes and trains space personnel. Like the other military branches, the Space Force has its headquarters at the Pentagon.
The undertaking has been tasked to the Department of the Air Force, which has been the predominant military leader in terms of space operations since 1954, according to officials.
Last month, the Space Force began redesignating Air Force units with a space-only mission; it will realign and rename Air Force bases to Space Force bases accordingly. In March, the Air Force said it would also restart its search for a permanent headquarters for SPACECOM as a result of staff and personnel movements between Space Command and the Space Force.
The Air Force on Friday said the latest move "expands the number of locations eligible for consideration to host the permanent U.S. Space Command headquarters, and provides a comprehensive and transparent analysis before selecting a final location."
The service did not provide an updated list of base contenders. A request for comment was not immediately returned.
"Colorado Springs, Colorado, remains the location for the provisional headquarters for U.S. Space Command headquarters until a permanent headquarters location is selected and facilities are ready in approximately six years," the Air Force said. "We anticipate selecting a preferred U.S. Space Command location early next calendar year."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper disclosed in March that some lawmakers whose states are vying to host SPACECOM felt the process hasn't been transparent enough.
"During my talks on the Hill prior to my nomination, particularly after my hearing here, I visited the House and heard from members on both sides of the aisle that they thought the process that had been run was unfair and not transparent," he said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 4. "So I directed at that time that we pause in place ... [and] we directed it be revisited and a different approach be taken."
In May 2019, the Air Force announced it was weighing four Colorado locations, including Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base, to accommodate SPACECOM. Other options are the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
A decision was originally due this summer.
Congressional leaders on Friday had mixed responses to the Pentagon's latest move to extend its search.
Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio, threw Dayton's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base into the ring.
"The Space Force should utilize our community for its unique capabilities and establish the U.S. Space Command headquarters here in Dayton," Turner said in a statement. "I will be fully supporting our community's bid to host this combatant command, which supports a mission critical to our nation's national security."
But Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, denounced the Pentagon's announcement as farce, and a waste of time and resources.
"This is worse than a boondoggle. It's a moondoggle," he said in a statement. "This is more Trump Administration grandstanding on the Space Force ... just in time for release of the new Steve Carell sitcom. The Pentagon is creating its own parody."
The Pentagon will begin circulating a list of evaluation and screening criteria to bases across the country. The installations are eligible to "nominate themselves as potential candidate locations by following the process outlined in a letter from the Department of the Air Force to the nation's governors which includes a nomination form and screening and evaluation criteria,"according to the statement.
"The potential candidates will receive additional information from the Air Force as part of the process for assessing their suitability to host the U.S. Space Command headquarters, based on the approved requirements and evaluation criteria," it added.