State National Guard Leaders Seek Assurances on Space Force Role

National Guard leaders, concerned about losing their state-controlled space units to the newly created Space Force, are seeking reassurances from the Pentagon.

Guard leaders from four states this week publicly appealed for creating a Space National Guard to preserve state units that could otherwise be absorbed into the Space Force, the sixth military service branch created in December.

“If you don’t have a Space National Guard, the Space Force will be yet further disconnected from the community and cause all those civil-military divides that the military always grouses about,” said Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the adjutant general of the California National Guard. Leaders from the Guard in Florida, Colorado, and Hawaii also voiced concerns amid the uncertainty. Alaska, Arkansas, New York, and Ohio also have space units.

Lawmakers probably won’t craft legislation setting out the National Guard’s new role in space until next year. A Pentagon legislative proposal on space that could be submitted to Congress next week says any request won’t come until the fiscal 2022 spending cycle, according to draft language obtained by Bloomberg Government.

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A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Pentagon could provide new details on its future plans in another Space Force report to Congress expected in March. But no proposal will be submitted this fiscal year as it considers a “clean sheet, 21st century approach” with the state units, according to the draft.

“Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve space units are aligned with and will be able to integrate effectively’’ with “space forces for the foreseeable future,” defense officials wrote in the draft.

The language is unlikely to change before the legislative proposal is submitted, a senior defense official said.

The Space Force was just created in December and the Pentagon and Air Force department are working out the details. This month, the department delivered an initial plan on the Space Force structure to Congress and proposed a $15.4 billion budget for the service in fiscal 2021, up from $40 million this year.

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Vandenberg Units

Baldwin said the department is weighing options for the National Guard and Reserve, including a totally federal Space Force that could potentially absorb his two space squadrons at Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Los Angeles as well as space units in seven other states.

The units could be transferred into an active-duty Space Force or a federal reserve force and could mean about 160 Guard members in the two units would be replaced by new service personnel, Baldwin said.

“You would ostensibly lose all that talent from people who have been doing the space mission for up to 10 years,” he said.

A Space National Guard would allow state Guard and Reserve members to transfer and continue their current responsibilities, said Maj. Gen. James Eifert, the adjutant general of the Florida National Guard who advocated for the change this week.

“It’s very simple and it’s a tried and true model that’s worked,” Eifert said in an interview.

Florida has the 114th Space Control Squadron, also focused on electronic warfare, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Melbourne, Florida. Many of the squadron members also work at Harris Corp., which makes the counter-communications systems it uses, and the close relationship benefits the military and its software development, Eifert said.

“They don’t plan to leave their full-time jobs, that’s not the model they signed up for,” he said. “If Space Force says all you guys are now active component, my guess is probably three-quarters of that unit are going to say not me anymore, see ya.”

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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