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NGB Chief: 'We Can’t Afford to Lose' Guard Space Capabilities

04-16-24 WR Space Recap WEBSITE
04-16-24 WR Space Recap WEBSITE
Washington Report

The chief of the National Guard Bureau says the nation cannot afford to move the Guard’s space units into the Space Force.

Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson adds forcing the Guard’s space talent into the Space Force could jeopardize national security.

"Yeah, I think I do," he said during an April 8 Voice of America interview when asked if such a change jeopardizes national security.

"And the reason I say that is, when you look at, about 86% said they would rather stay in the National Guard, and when you look at our space professionals, we can’t afford to lose any capability at all," added Hokanson, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hokanson was addressing a legislative proposal Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall formally approved March 15.

The draft legislation would shift the Air Guard’s space units to the Space Force without the approval of the state governors impacted by the transition.

Federal law has required the Pentagon to get approval from state governors before transferring their Guard units to other military branches for about 120 years.

The Air Guard currently has about 1,000 space professionals spread across 14 units in seven states.

These units reside in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York and Ohio.

Kendall told a Senate subcommittee April 9 that the Air Force would not seek to bypass state governors on other Guard issues in the future.

But Guard leaders believe even once would set a dangerous precedent.

Retired Maj. Gen. Francis M. McGinn, the NGAUS president, argued in an April 10 op-ed the Air Force should never bypass federal law on Guard issues.

"This is not how a nation of laws works," he said. "Follow the law or work to change the law."

NGB estimates it would take up to nine years and $1 billion to replace the Guard’s space talent if Congress adopts the Air Force’s legislative proposal.

The bureau conversely predicts establishing a Space Guard would cost approximately $250,000 in changed uniform tapes, signs and unit flags.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told NATIONAL GUARD magazine April 10 the nation must be "very wary" of letting the Air Force bypass existing federal law about Guard matters.

"I will not let that happen without serious pushback," he said of the Air Force’s legislative proposal.

"But should the Space Force have a Guard component?" asked Graham, the co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus. "I’m OK with that if it makes sense."

NGAUS considers establishing a Space Guard as the primary combat reserve of the Space Force a legislative priority.

As of April 11, the Space National Guard Establishment Act of 2024 (S. 3697) has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the measure in the Senate on Jan. 31, 2024.

The House included the legislation in its version of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.

— By Mark Hensch and Donald Lambert