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NGAUS: Air Force Wants to Bypass Governors in Scheme to Take Space Units from National Guard

05-09-23 WR Space Guard House Bill WEBSITE
05-09-23 WR Space Guard House Bill WEBSITE
Press Release

WASHINGTON (April 1, 2024) — The voice of more than 45,000 current and former National Guard officers has learned of an Air Force scheme to move space units from the Air National Guard to the Space Force that excludes the affected governors from any role in the decision.  

Draft legislation formally approved March 15 by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall seeks to bypass the longstanding requirement in federal law for the Pentagon to obtain a governor’s consent before transferring a National Guard unit to another branch of the military.

The draft cites the specific portions of federal law the Air Force wants waived: Section 104 of Title 32, United States Code and Section 18238 of Title 10, United States Code.

There are approximately 1,000 Air National Guard space professionals in 14 units across seven states. They provide 30% of the U.S. military’s space operations squadrons and 60% of its electromagnetic warfare capability.

The units are in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York and Ohio.

“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.

“For us and many on Capitol Hill, this is more than about defending the National Guard’s role in space,” he said. “It’s about what’s best for the nation.”

Surveys of Air National 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.

“Serving in the National Guard works for them,” he explained. “And their units work very well for the nation. They are always ready and available when the nation calls.  

“But the Air Force plan would destroy these 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.”   

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

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

That is the full price to cover new uniform tapes, signs and unit flags. And the airmen would remain available for state missions. In recent years, Air National Guard space units have used their skills and equipment to assist with local state responses to floods and wildfires.

A provision to create a Space National Guard was in the House’s version of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.

Meanwhile, 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.

Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Maj. Gen. Francis M. McGinn is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.

NGAUS: The association was created in 1878 to provide united Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 146 years later with more than 45,000 members nationwide, NGAUS has the same mission.