SPACE NATIONAL GUARD: WHO THEY ARE, WHAT THEY DO, WHO THEY REPORT TO
By Michael Madrid
The idea of a Space National Guard has been debated for a few years now between defense officials and lawmakers. Now, legislators are looking to organize a part-time component for guardians. Let’s take a look at what that would realistically consist of.
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What Is the Space National Guard?A new bill titled the Space National Guard Establishment Act, introduced by Sens. Diane Feinstein, Marco Rubio, and Rep. Jason Crow, suggests that the need for a Space Force National Guard is necessary. “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,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Creating a Space Force National Guard would also save money and ensure a smoother process in the event we need to activate personnel. Not establishing a Space National Guard was a mistake when Space Force was created, and this bill will remedy that.” Up to this point, it hasn’t been determined whether any of this will be official or how it will be implemented. There has been debate whether a national guard for the Space Force would consist of a brand new infrastructure or a transition from the Air National Guard. A realistic approach suggested by the Senate Armed Services Committee would consist of a simple name change from Air National Guard to the Air and Space National Guard. This suggestion left the Space National Guard supporters dissatisfied, arguing there is no direct connection between the Air National Guard and the Space Force. Whether a brand new infrastructure is needed to establish this is unknown. If so, creating a new infrastructure would be prohibitive, costing hundreds of millions. Air National Guard personnel are suggesting the better option would be to integrate them. During a virtual meeting with the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Brig. Gen. Michael A. Valle, commander of the Florida Air National Guard, said, “Such cost estimates are based off flawed assumptions, such as the need for new infrastructure and the establishment of space units in every state and territory.” Instead, he suggests that “The costs would be limited to cosmetic changes such as name tape, unit flags, and signs.” Ideally, if a new Space National Guard is going to be implemented, the most cost-effective and objective approach would be to integrate them.
Air National Guard Space OperationsAt present, 1,500 constituents in the Air National Guard conduct space missions across seven states and one territory. The chances are slim that current Guard members would transition over to complete space missions. Given that the Space National Guard establishment hasn’t gone into effect, it’s unclear if they’d be required to train new Guardians. Proposals of a new budget for training a brand new batch of Guardians to perform space missions have been brought up by the House Armed Services Committee. Concerns of that matter are essential, but some say the extended amount of time it would take can negatively affect our protection. Brig. Gen. Michael A. Valle believes that, given the crucial threats from China and Russia and the contested nature of space, the Space Force can’t afford any delay caused by the need to train new Guardians. The Air National Guard covers all of our space missions. The time and cost that would be required to train new Guardians to perform space missions stated by National Guard personnel isn’t a good idea for our protection. Since the Air National Guard already has trained members and operations set up, transitioning them over would be ideal. Lawmakers want to continue establishing the USSF organizational structure, so putting in place a Space National Guard is necessary. How it will be executed is still undetermined, but what trained Air National Guard members have recommended should be considered – especially before millions of taxpayer dollars are spent. Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond described only a few final options the USSF can take if they plan to establish a national guard: “You could keep the Guard units in the Air National Guard and have the Air National Guard continue to provide support,” Raymond mentioned. “Option two is you could take the 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.” Only time will tell exactly how the Space National Guard will come to be and operate within the confines of its current limitations.
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