By Steve Flowers
In my July 19, 2023 column my prediction was that Democratic President Joe Biden would keep the heralded space command headquarters in Colorado, rather than allow it to be moved to Alabama. Biden made the Colorado decision 10 days later. Why? It is very simple. Biden is a Democrat running for reelection for President as a Democrat. Colorado is a blue Democratic state. Alabama is a ruby red Republican state. Of course, the decision to keep the facility in Colorado was political.
The only reason that the federal military officials even considered moving the Space Command from Colorado to Huntsville, Alabama over two years ago was because of our omnipotent senior senator, Richard Shelby. When Shelby spoke generals and presidents listened. Senator Richard Shelby was Chairman of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee. He wrote the federal budget. There is an old adage that those who control the gold make the rules. In this regard, Shelby was more powerful than the President, whether it be Trump or Biden. Shelby told the Generals that he wanted the Space Facility in Huntsville, therefore, they made the announcement that it would be moving to Alabama.
The bottom line is the only reason there was any consideration towards moving the facility from Colorado to Alabama was Richard Shelby, and the only reason that it will not be moving is because Shelby is gone. I knew at the time of announcement that the Space Command headquarters might move to Alabama, that if Shelby did not get it actually moved before he retired that it would probably never happen. Folks, you are just beginning to see the impact Senator Shelby’s retirement means to the state of Alabama.
Our two freshman senators, Tommy Tuberville and Katie Britt, fought valiantly and commendably for Huntsville, but they are essentially irrelevant in the process. It is all about seniority in Washington. Tuberville’s two and a half years in the Senate places him 93 out of 100 in seniority. Young Katie Britt has the makings of being one of our greatest U.S. Senators, along with giants Richard Shelby, Lister Hill and John Sparkman. However, currently, Katie’s eight months in the Senate places her 99 out of 100 in seniority. Furthermore, Tuberville and Britt are in the minority party in the U.S. Senate. Democrats have a majority in the Senate along with a Democratic President.
Some liberals have implied that Tommy Tuberville was the reason for the decision because of his feud with the Biden Administration over the abortion policy in the military. That is not the reason. They are actually flattering Tuberville. With his lack of seniority he is not that relevant in the decision making process. However, his being a rabid right wing Trump Republican surrogate certainly did not help the matter.
Huntsville should not feel so badly about the Biden Administration leaving Space Command in Colorado. It was crumbs compared to what Shelby loaded Huntsville up with in the last decade anyway. This Space Command deal is more for prestige than it is for jobs and dollars. Shelby brought most of the high tech and aerospace dollars in the country to Huntsville which is what matters. Much more importantly, he moved most of Washington to Huntsville, including the FBI Headquarters. Folks, that is real power. It is unlikely that Alabama or any other state in the nation will ever see the power wielded by Richard Shelby in the nation’s history.
Yes, Colorado got to keep the Space Command name because of politics. However, lest people forget, Huntsville has grown into one of the premier high tech defense places in America because of politics.
In the post-Depression era of the 1930s, Huntsville was a sleepy cotton town of 20,000. Our two U.S. Senators during the 1940s through 1960s were icons, Lister Hill and John Sparkman. They were giants of the Senate, who were New Deal, FDR allies, with seniority, prowess and class. John Sparkman brought the Redstone Arsenal and Wernher von Braun to Huntsville and the rest is history.
Over the years I have told Huntsville’s brilliant Mayor, Tommy Battle, who has been an integral part of Huntsville’s explosive growth, they should name their city Sparkmanville. Given Shelby’s powerful sustaining of what Senator Sparkman began 70 years ago, maybe Sparkman/Shelbyville should be the Rocket City’s new name.
It’s all about politics, folks.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.