Air Force pushes to move Guard units to Space Force

“[Air National Guardsmen] will be able to continue to serve in the way that they currently would serve,” said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.

A potential transfer of all space units in the Air National Guard to the Space Force will have minimal impact on the 1,000 guardsmen performing space missions in seven states, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said today.

“There’s no intention to move anyone. There’s some concerns out there that I think are overblown. People will basically have stability if they transition,” Kendall told senators on Tuesday at a hearing on the service’s posture.

Last month, Air Force officials sent a legislative proposal to Congress to bypass existing law that requires them to obtain governors’ consent prior to making any changes to National Guard units and to transfer 14 units with space missions within the Air National Guard into the Space Force.

Since the inception of the Space Force in 2019, much debate has centered on what to do with the 1,000 Air National Guard professionals performing space missions.

The 2024 defense policy bill requires the Air Force to assess the feasibility of creating a separate National Guard component for the Space Force, moving National Guard space units with space missions to the Space Force or leaving things as they currently are.

While the study, which was due on March 1st, is still in its final draft, Air Force officials are already pursuing a provision in the 2025 defense policy bill to move all Guard space units to the Space Force.

“The missions that are currently being performed in the National Guard are critical to our success and I’ve been very clear about that in the past. The easiest way for me to manage it, though, is for those missions to be performed in a single component. There’s an added level of complexity if the Space Force is required to manage a second component, like a Space National Guard. And I’m trying to do my best to keep the administrative bureaucracy, the staffing levels of the Space Force as small as possible,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman told lawmakers during the Senate Appropriations Committee’s hearing on April 9.

Kendall said they have already looked at the functions of those space units to determine whether they better fit into the Air Force or Space Force architecture.

“Most of them do fit within the Space Force. There are a couple that I think may be more appropriate in the Air Force, but they’re all valued and they’re all important. We want to have them continue to serve. We are looking at how to best make that happen,” said Kendall.

Air Force officials want to bring Air Force Guardsmen into the Space Force under the Space Force Personnel Management Act, which allows Guardians and Air Force reservists to serve part- or full-time.

The service is already working to bring about 1,000 Air Force reservists performing space missions into the Space Force under the new legislation.

“We are looking at how to best make that happen. [Gen. Chance Saltzman] and I are both very strongly of the opinion that the right way to do that, from the point of view of national capability and for the ability to manage the Space Force, is to bring those units into the Space Force ultimately under the Space Force Personnel Management Act,” said Kendall.

“We’re doing this now with some of the reserves that are going to be moving under the Space Force Personnel Management Act. We’re going to handle the Space Guard people the same way. So they would have stability and they will be able to continue to serve in the way that they currently would serve. There should not be a lot of concern about dramatic changes as far as any of them are concerned.”

The proposed legislation to transfer Air National Guardsmen has received pushback from state governors and advocate groups.

Last week, the National Governors Association called for immediate withdrawal of the proposed legislation.

“Governors on both sides of the aisle call for the immediate discontinuation of legislative proposals that endanger or deny the full and legitimate authority of governors to act in the capacity of commander-in-chief to their respective National Guard across states and territories,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a National Governors Association press release.

Kendall, however, said removing the requirement to obtain a governor’s consent prior to making changes to a National Guard unit will not set a blueprint for moving other missions out of the National Guard.

This [issue] is an artifact of the creation of the Space Force. It’s sort of cleaning up the battlefield of the creation of the Space Force. It’s a unique situation. There is absolutely no intention to make any other changes, moving things out of the Guard,” said Kendal.

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