Even with the Space Force’s creation happening at the end of 2019, there are still aspects of this new branch being worked out on Capitol Hill. One key area to be decided is whether or not the Space Force will have its own reserve force. Since the creation of the Space Force, top brass sought a Space Force National Guard almost immediately after the branch was founded, but now it seems this option is now likely off the table with a new change proposed by lawmakers.
Guard Out But Door Opened for Reserve Component?
The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a markup of a recommended name change to the Air National Guard to be the “Air and Space National Guard.” This change seemingly eliminates the need for a separate Space National Guard; however, it opens a door for a Space reserve component to exist.
Gen Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau has been advocating for a Space National Guard saying it was among one of his most pressing concerns. In May when Hokanson testified to Congress he said, “The National Guard is also a trusted space and cyber partner. For 25 years, National Guard space units have provided operational, unit-equipped, surge-to-war capabilities to protect our nation’s vital interest in contested domain.” Hokanson told lawmakers back in May.
About 2,000 guardsmen are already performing space domain operations across fourteen National Guard Units located in Alaska, California, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Hawaii, New York, and Guam. Back in February of 2020, the adjutants general of California, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, and Colorado all made their case that their Guardsmen, who already do extensive work on offensive and defensive space missions should report directly to the Space Force.
And Hokanson is not the only one who has advocated for this change. His predecessor, AF Gen Joseph Lengyel also called for the Nation Guard space units to be under the Space Force.
He previously told lawmakers, “I believe that one of the things that is best about [the National Guard] is, we mirror the culture of our parent service. So, there is only one standard to be a soldier in the Army. There is only one standard to be an airman in the Air Force. There will be a standard to be a space warrior…in the Space Force. I believe it important that the space capability currently in the National Guard move into the Space Force.
Space Force Report Met with Zero Funding
But this proposal was met with indifference or increased scrutiny. It seems that that general feeling of just creating a new Space reserve component remains in place.
The 2021 NDAA instructed the Defense Department to brief lawmakers on the viability and practicality of a Space Force Reserve or Guard element. Sen Jack Reed, D-R.I. said they were waiting for results back in February and that once they received the report, they will consider it in the next NDAA.
Leaders from the Air Force and Space Force have now completed the study that was due back in March on how best to organize Guard and Reserve personnel within the Space Force and would advance to lawmakers soon.
But Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat and chair of the House Defense Appropriation panel, questioned the funding necessary to create a Space Guard. With the delay in the required report and the overall feeling among leaders on Capitol Hill, it seems unlikely that a new separate reserve for the Space Force will be part of its future this year.