Ever since the Space Force was created, the idea of a Space Force National Guard has been on the table. And in the past, the decision to create a National Guard for the Space Force only amounted to conversations and ultimately no action. But the discussion around a Space Force National Guard has resurfaced and once again is attempting to make headway.
Senator Diane Feinstein D-CA along with Senator Marko Rubio R-FL introduced the “Space Force National Guard Establishment Act” on Wednesday, February 15. The bill is co-sponsored by senators from both parties. Along with the announcement from the Senate, U.S. Rep Jason Cow, D- CO introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. They believe that the approximately 1,500 service members who perform space missions under the Air National Guard should be aligned under the Space Force.
part-time active duty approach
This is the same bill that the two senators pushed for last year that saw little movement forward – in part, because the Air Force and Space Force have pushed back on the idea of creating a separate National Guard for the Space Force. Included in the NDAA, Congress asked the Space Force to research the idea of allowing Guardians to serve part-time on active duty. A report highlighting how this idea would work is expected for Congress on March 1.
The part-time active duty approach has been pitched by the Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and is his preferred solution rather than standing up a National Guard. The idea was also supported by former Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond. Gen Raymond said that after considerable debate, “one of the innovative things that we came up with was a solution to put the reserve and active duty together in one component, so you don’t have a separate reserve.”
Because of the mission and focus of the Space Force, leaders believe offering an option to work part-time instead of only on active duty is not just a good idea. They also believe a part-time active duty is a cost-effective and innovative strategy to retain and recruit talented people from the commercial tech sectors. If approved by Congress it would allow members to transition between what were formerly regular and reserve component positions without requiring a new appointment.
Conflicting Opinions on Space Force Solution
But not everyone agrees. The National Guard Association, the nonprofit logging army that advocates on behalf of the reserve component, is opposed to part-time active duty. They believe it would harm rather than help retention efforts.
Feinstein said, “[Members] should serve under the Space Force with the rest of our space units and fix the organizational disconnect that is undermining their training, resourcing, and recruiting. Leaving the Guard’s space units under the Air Force is shortsighted and undermines our national security, and must be remedied.”
Even with its reintroduction with bipartisan support, the idea of creating a Space Force National Guard component has an uphill battle to climb. The White House also supports the idea of part-time active duty. In 2021, they issued a statement saying it was “strongly opposed” to any effort to create a Space Guard component. They estimated it would increase costs each year by up to $500 million to create a separate branch. however, this number has been disputed by outside observers and has angered National Guard officials.
Will the Space Force get a new National Guard, even if it goes against its wishes? We will see what comes from the report on this topic from the Space Force that should be sent to Congress early next month. The findings will likely play a role in what will happen next in the choice for this newly proposed bill.