Most Guardsmen will retrain or retire rather than join Space Force

“Harvesting of National Guard resources to the regular components is a solution looking for a problem,” said Col. Michael Griesbaum.

Most National Guard professionals performing space missions would retrain or retire rather than join the Space Force, the Air National Guard internal survey shows.

As the Air Force senior leaders continue to defend a legislative proposal to move all space units within the National Guard to the Space Force, up to 86% of all Guard space personnel say they will stay in the National Guard and retrain instead of switching over to an active service branch. 

“We will begin to see the loss of experienced space operators long before the Space Force will ever be able to make up for the loss of that experience and proficiency. We will see a significant hit to national security because people will act in their own interest and retrain or retire rather than join the Space Force. And the Space Force does not have the capacity to make up for that loss,” Col. Michael Griesbaum, the commander of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 168th Wing, told reporters during a media roundtable Friday. 

The Hawaii Air National Guard, for example, has two electromagnetic warfare squadrons on Oahu and Kauai. About 91 Airmen are assigned to those units and the Guard plans to bring in more professionals to support the mission.

Col. Daniel Wrazien, the staff director for the Hawaii Air National Guard, said most citizen Airmen would most likely remain in the Hawaii National Guard and retrain into other missions.

The majority of the 91 Airmen in these units do not want to transfer from the Air National Guard to the United States Space Force. This, in turn, would create new personnel training and facilities costs for both the Air National Guard and the Space Force,” said Wrazien. 

In March, Air Force officials sent a legislative proposal to Congress seeking to bypass existing law that requires the federal government 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.

The Air Force senior officials have since defended the proposal, saying that removing the requirement to obtain a governor’s consent prior to making changes to National Guard units will not set a blueprint for the active components to pull resources from the National Guard in the future.

“It’s a unique situation. There is absolutely no intention to make any other changes, moving things out of the Guard,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall Kendall told lawmakers last month. 

But Air National Guard leaders said overriding existing law to allow Air National Guard units be pulled from their states without governors’ consent  would set a dangerous precedent for separating other missions from the National Guard.

“Nothing legislatively ever happens once. If [legislative proposal 480] is successful, it will open the door to a wholesale harvesting of National Guard resources, both from the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard to the regular components. It is a solution looking for a problem,” Griesbaum said.

At the same time, the governors of 48 states and five territories sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calling for the immediate discontinuation of the legislative proposal.

“Legislation that sidesteps, eliminates or otherwise reduces governors’ authority within their states and territories undermines longstanding partnerships, precedence, military readiness and operational efficacy,” the letter reads.

As of now, the Space Force doesn’t have a model for part-time participation in the service. Air Force officials want to bring citizen Airmen into the Space Force under the Space Force Personnel Management Act. The Act gives more flexibility to Guardians and Air Force reservists and allows them to serve part- or full-time, but it doesn’t cover Guardsmen.

During a budget hearing last month, Secretary Kendall said this potential transfer will not have a significant impact on Air Guardsmen in charge of space missions. 

“There’s no intention to move anyone. There are some concerns out there that I think are overblown. People will basically have stability if they transition,” said Kendall.

Air National Guard leaders said there are too many unknowns about what the transfer of the missions and personnel would look like, but the legislative proposal would give the Air Force the authority to move National Guard personnel to other states.

“The current Secretary the Air Force has said he is not planning on moving them, but the way the [legislative proposal] is written — the future Secretary to the Air Force absolutely can go in there, provide 120 days notification and then move those units out of the state,” Brig. Gen. Michael Bruno, director of joint staff for the Colorado National Guard, said. 

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