National Guard Breaks with Pentagon on Space Force Proposal

The National Guard’s top officer has formally broken with the Pentagon over its Space Force legislative proposal to Congress because of uncertainty about the future of 1,100 state reserve troops in the new service.

The draft proposal due this month to lawmakers fails to deliver a plan to incorporate Air National Guard space units in about eight states into Space Force, Gen. Joseph Lengyel wrote in a Feb. 10 dissent letter obtained by Bloomberg Government.

The Pentagon should instead request the creation of a Space National Guard for the units, he said.

“Failure to effectively align and integrate Air National Guard space forces with the Space Force risks significant readiness, retention and morale issues at the unit level,” wrote Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. John Wilkes)
Joseph Lengyel

National Guard adjutants general from California, Florida, Colorado, and Hawaii raised concerns earlier this month that their units could be lost or replaced as space operations across the military are transferred into the Space Force.

Pentagon Plan Delayed

The Pentagon was still finishing up the space proposal Thursday, though it was originally expected to be delivered to Congress on Feb. 20. The department won’t seek legislation on the Guard issue before the fiscal 2022 authorization bill as it studies the role of reserve units in the Space Force, according to draft language. The proposal to Congress is needed to cover any additional legislation that the Pentagon requires as it sets up the first new military service branch in more than 70 years.

“With nearly 40 years of active and National Guard experience, I believe that delaying space reserve component in order to study other manpower alternatives will orphan Air National Guard space units,” Lengyel wrote in the letter to John Rood, the defense undersecretary for policy. Rood will step down at the end of the month after being dismissed by President Donald Trump.

About 1,100 Air National Guard and 400 Army National Guard troops serve space units in Alaska, Hawaii, California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Arkansas, and Ohio, as well as the U.S. territory of Guam.

Lengyel’s letter is part of a formal Pentagon drafting process that puts him on record as disagreeing with the proposal. It specifically addressed the Air National Guard. The Pentagon plans to address the transfer of Army and Navy units into the Space Force next year.

“I think what Gen. Lengyel has done here is encapsulate the case for an immediate Space National Guard,” said John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States, an advocacy group.

Goheen said the same arguments for a Space National Guard are being made by state adjutants general, space experts, and his association.

“This is the case and it’s a compelling one, and I think many members of Congress are going to see it as a compelling case,” he said. “Why are we waiting?”

To contact the reporter on this story: Travis J. Tritten at ttritten@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodie Morris at jmorris@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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