Who says the Space Force needs a National Guard? For many, need is a strong word – hence the disagreements. And although there is a lot of pushback from military leaders and the President, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are moving forward to make a Space Force National Guard a future element of the U.S. Space Force. These lawmakers believe that this change would ensure a pipeline for guardians to work part-time and move between active duty and the Guard. It would also eliminate the need for the Space Force to route funding between it and the Air Force and in the end, would give the Space Force more control over Guard members who work on Space Force functions.
Space Force National Guard – What is the Need?
But standing up a full Space Force Guard means more than having locations for Space Force members to fill billets. It would create a new system where each state would have the capabilities related to space that governors could rely on. Do state governors actually need this? Currently, there are more than 1,000 Air National Guard members who perform space missions.
Leaving those members in those roles and not creating a Space National Guard is something Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond has talked about. He said, “You could keep the Guard units in the Air National Guard and have the Air National Guard to provide support. Option two is you could take men and women out of the Air National Guard and set up a separate Space National Guard. Or you can take those capabilities out of the Guard totally and put them in this one component.”
Legislators like Diane Finestine (D-Calif.) are worried that “without a National Guard component for Space Force, we risk losing many talented individuals who want to keep serving their country and their states after they leave active duty, and that is simply unacceptable.” She believes that not creating a Space Force National Guard when the branch was created was a mistake and wants to rectify that issue with this new bill.
Space Force Forging its Own Path
But the Space Force seems to be on its own path to retaining talent without having traditional structures in place. In April, the Space Force proposed instead of having a dedicated reserve force, there would be active-duty forces with full and part-time members. At the time, plans for a National Guard were also put on hold.
This ability for members to serve part-time would allow the Space Force to recruit and retain specialized individuals who also are in high demand in the private sector – giving members the flexibility to make the best choice for not only their career and their family. Gen. Raymond said, “We would be giving opportunities for people to go to the commercial industry, to go to NASA, and then come back. Maybe at certain times in their life, if they want to have children, they can go part-time for a while and then come back without having to get out of active duty and then go into the reserves.”
Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tweeted that she thinks the component is a bad idea and goes against the changes the Space Force is trying to make. She tweeted, “A Space Force National Guard is a bad idea. Why would a governor ever need satellite operations to support their state/local issues? The argument people are already doing this is not a good one – sounds like a realignment issue and not a ‘lets just create another bureaucratic org.’”
There is a lot of back and forth on what will happen next with the U.S. Space Force over two years after the branch’s creation. And where there are a lot of opinions, there’s also a lot of uncertainty. It’s up to the Space Force to define what ways members will be able to continue to serve outside the traditional full-time active duty component.