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Air Force Wants to Bypass Governors, Take Guard Space Units

04-02-24 WR Space Governors
04-02-24 WR Space Governors
Washington Report

NGAUS has learned of an Air Force scheme to move space units from the Air National Guard to the Space Force that excludes the governors of the affected states from any role in the decision.

Draft legislation formally approved March 15 by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall seeks to bypass federal laws that require the Pentagon to obtain a governor’s consent before transferring a Guard unit to another branch of the military.

There are approximately 1,000 Air Guard space professionals in 14 units across seven states.

"Air National Guard space professionals and their equipment, by law, belong to a governor until mobilized by the president," said retired Maj. Gen. Francis M. McGinn, the NGAUS president. "Governors have long had a vote in these matters, and they deserve one here.

"This proposal is also coming late in the process for consideration in the fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act," he said. "It has the look and feel of legislation designed to be snuck into a large bill with little or no discussion."

McGinn said the Air Force may be resorting to such tactics because the service has failed to make the case for their plan.

Surveys of Air Guard space professionals indicate that most do not want to transfer to the Space Force. Many are part-time members with civilian jobs in high-tech fields. They do not want to serve full time, and they do not want to be subject to moving, McGinn said.

Additionally, there are currently no part-time positions in the Space Force, and there will not be any soon.

The fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act does authorize part-time positions in the Space Force.

But Gen. Chance Saltzman, the chief of space operations, recently told his force in a memo that creating part-time positions "is going to take some time," according to a March 28 Military.com story.

"The Air Force plan would destroy the Air Guard’s space units," McGinn said. "These are some of the most experienced space units in the military. The nation would suddenly be without their capabilities at a time when our nation increasingly depends on satellites and our adversaries are rapidly expanding their military presence in space."

Air Guard space units provide 30% of the U.S. military’s space operations squadrons and 60% of its electromagnetic warfare capability.

The National Guard Bureau estimates it would take up to nine years and as much as $1 billion to fill this void.

But establishing a Space Guard from the 14 units in seven states would cost only about $250,000, according to NGB.

A provision to create a Space Guard was in the House’s version of the fiscal 2024 NDAA.

And the Space National Guard Establishment Act of 2024 (S. 3697) is gaining momentum in the Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the bill Jan. 31 with 13 bipartisan co-sponsors. S. 3697 picked up two new co-sponsors last month.

NGAUS is asking its members to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support the establishment of a Space Guard.

This can be done by using the NGAUS Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org/legislation/write-congress.

— By John Goheen