I would like to know the real reason why the White House Office of Management and Budget opposes creating a Space National Guard.
So far, OMB’s stated logic doesn’t add up.
The latest argument appears in the Oct. 18 Statement of Administration Policy related to Senate debate on the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
OMB said the nation doesn’t need a Space Guard because space is “solely a federal mission.”
Combat is also solely a federal mission. The National Guard has an array of direct combat units. We have them because the Guard is the primary combat reserve of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
But this critical federal mission hasn’t prevented them from conducting a multitude of life-saving state missions over the years.
And despite space being “solely a federal mission,” space units currently in the Air Guard have responded to floods and wildfires in a state status. They did the same during the lengthy pandemic response.
This is what makes the Guard unique among the components of the U.S. armed forces — every unit has both a federal mission and a state mission. They train for their warfighting mission, but they can use their assets to help their states when needed.
The Air Force began placing space units in the Air Guard in the 1990s because service officials knew the Guard could build and sustain them with highly qualified people.
That has certainly turned out to be true. The 14 Air Guard space units across seven states and Guam have some of the most skilled and experienced personnel in the U.S. military. Many bring expertise from their full-time work in high-tech fields.
Unfortunately, they were left behind when the Pentagon stood up the Space Force nearly three years ago.
OMB says they can all be “migrated” to a currently undefined hybrid Space Component that would include some part-time positions.
I’m sure the concept briefs well on PowerPoint slides.
But these are people who joined the Guard to serve both their nation and their state. They take pride in their state affiliation. They also enjoy the benefits their state service provides.
Air Guard space unit commanders tell me the vast majority of their personnel don’t want to leave the Guard. This means without a Space Guard, the nation will lose this expertise and the unique public connection the Guard currently provides to military space missions.
Conspicuously absent from the latest OMB statement is any mention of cost. OMB previously said Space Guard would have a price tag of $500 million a year, implying this would be an added expenditure. The figure was wildly inflated and quickly panned by those who knew better.
The units that would comprise a Space Guard are already on the payroll, their facilities and equipment already in place. They would need new uniform tapes and signs, which would come with a cost. That would be a one-time fee of about $250,000, according to the Pentagon.
This issue — and the nation — would benefit from a little more open discussion. But don’t expect anyone in the Defense Department to speak up. A former National Guard Bureau chief says defense officials are essentially under a “gag order” not to speak about a Space Guard.
Additionally, he and others say there are Pentagon studies and reports favorable to creating a Space Guard that haven’t been released.
My guess is that OMB opposition is actually driven by a few influential people in the current administration who don’t like the states involved in the defense of the United States.
Our association often has to deal with this view in Washington, despite the fact it ignores centuries of critical Guard contributions to the nation’s defense and the preservation of American lives and values.
It also runs counter to some of the fundamental principles of the Constitution.
NOTE: A provision to create a Space National Guard is in the House version of the fiscal 2023 NDAA. It is not in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup, but there is an amendment creating a Space Guard under consideration for the final Senate version of the bill. It is sponsored by a bipartisan group that includes Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.