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Governors oppose National Guard move to Space Force

A U.S Space Force mission, carrying the first Weather System Follow-on Microwave (WSF-M) satellite, launches aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., April 11, 2024. U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olga Houtsma.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed on to a letter Monday alongside 47 other state governors, as well as five territories and commonwealths, opposing the Biden administration’s move to incorporate Air National Guard service members into the Space Force.

The letter from the National Governors’ Association, addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, is written in opposition to a legislative proposal submitted by the Department of Defense to the Senate Armed Services Committee that would transfer some Air National Guard personnel and equipment currently being used on space missions to the Space Force.

The Defense Department proposal would require Congress to override existing law requiring that governors approve changes to National Guard units, through Title 10 and 32 of the U.S. Code, that outlines gubernatorial authority over their states’ National Guard.

The bipartisan group of governors signing the letter said the proposed measure would hurt governors’ abilities to use the National Guard in response to crises. Governors must retain full authority over these units “to protect operational readiness and America’s communities,” the letter states.

“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 states. “This action also negatively affects the important relationships between Governors and DOD at a time when we need to have full trust and confidence between the two to meet the growing threats posed by the era of strategic competition as well as natural disasters.”

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told federal lawmakers earlier in April that the proposal would shift roughly 700 National Guard members to Space Force as part of a one-time transfer. There are currently 14 units, with about 1,000 personnel, working on space-related missions in seven states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York and Ohio — that could be impacted by the move, according to the National Guard Association of the United States.

The National Guard advocacy group also released a statement opposing the draft legislation.  Kendall told reporters in April that he doesn’t “see a reason why a state needs a Space Force militia.” But Retired Maj. Gen. Frank M. McGinn, the organization’s president, said keeping space missions within the National Guard keeps the personnel current serving on space missions in work, as many are not able to move or take on full-time responsibilities. It allows states to retain the same defense and military capabilities as other parts of the country, he said — comparing the issue to states having artillery and cyber units in the National Guard, separate from the U.S. military.

“Here is what Secretary Kendall is asking to do: Skirt federal law to transfer nearly empty units to the Space Force, thereby reducing the nation’s military space capabilities at a time when our nation is seeing growing competition in space,” McGinn said. “I don’t see why he wants to take this action. And a growing number in Congress wonder the same.”

Only two state governors, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, did not sign on to the letter. Both states have a vested interest in Space Force operations and development, with Patrick Space Force Base in Brevard County, Florida being one of the five current bases of the military branch. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also has operations in both states.


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Governors oppose National Guard move to Space Force