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53 Governors Sign Letter Opposing Air Force Proposal

04-30-24 WR Space Letter WEBSITE
04-30-24 WR Space Letter WEBSITE
Washington Report

Fifty-three governors told Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Monday that the Air Force's scheme to take National Guard units without gubernatorial approval would "deeply damage the relationship between states and the federal government."

The group delivered their message to Austin in a letter from the National Governors Association bearing all of their signatures.

The governors' concern is a recent legislative proposal from the Department of the Air Force that would transfer the Air National Guard's 14 space units across seven states to the Space Force without the required consent of the impacted governors.

This gubernatorial consent requirement has been in federal law since 1903.

While only seven states are directly affected by Legislative Proposal 480 — or LP 480 on Capitol Hill — the NGA's letter reflects widespread concern over the measure's long-term ramifications.

"This legislation disregards gubernatorial authorities regarding the National Guard and undermines over 100 years of precedent as well as national security and military readiness," the governors wrote.

NGAUS and many of the nation's governors believe Congress put laws in place more than a century ago specifically to prevent actions by federal officials like LP 480.

"National Guard assets are critical components of states’ and territories’ responses to crises," the governors argued. "Governors must maintain full authority as Commanders in Chief of these assets to effectively protect operational readiness and America’s communities.

"Any federal efforts or legislative actions intended to disregard or weaken these authorities will negatively impact our ability to serve the nation and deeply damage the relationship between states and the federal government," they explained to Austin.

The governors also expressed concern about the Air Guard's roughly 1,000 space professionals who would be impacted by any involuntary transfers.

"LP 480 also poses a threat to the careers of state-based service members who will be forced to choose between state service or continuing in their current field at a time when there are already significant recruitment challenges," the group wrote.

"An action like this will violate the trust of the brave women and men who have volunteered to serve our states and our nation," they stated.

Courtesy copies of the NGA's letter were sent to President Joe Biden, congressional leaders, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Some of the NGA letter's signatories have also sent individual letters to Austin or Biden.

For example, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon told Biden in an April 16 letter that "such blatant disregard of gubernatorial authority threatens the very existence of a force that has proven critical in our national ability to conduct the Global War on Terror, respond to national emergencies (COVID, Katrina, Ike, Irma, Harvey and the California and Hawaii wildfires to name a few), and provide each state with the trained and ready personnel required to respond and prevent emergencies within its own borders."

— By John Goheen