Nearly all U.S. governors oppose proposal to move National Guard space units to Space Force

By Shelley K. Mesch / April 29, 2024 at 12:03 PM

Governors from nearly every U.S. state and territory sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today opposing the Defense Department's proposal to absorb Air National Guard space operations into the Space Force.

The letter -- signed by 53 governors, or all except Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) -- says the proposal “disregards gubernatorial authorities regarding the National Guard and undermines over 100 years of precedent as well as national security and military readiness.”

About 700 guardsmen would be transferred into the Space Force under the DOD proposal, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said, to complete the remainder of their enlistments, should they choose to switch services. No guardsmen would be required to make the transfer.

The proposal “poses a threat to the careers of state-based service members who will be forced to choose between state service or continuing in their current field at a time when there are already significant recruitment challenges,” the governors’ letter states. “An action like this will violate the trust of the brave women and men who have volunteered to serve our states and our nation.”

Across Alaska, California, Colorado, Ohio, New York, Hawaii and Florida, 14 units would be assigned new federal missions or be deactivated.

National Guard leaders have publicly opposed the proposal, saying it guts the Guard and states of space capabilities.

Kendall and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman have said the proposal streamlines the command of space operations.

Several lawmakers have pushed for the creation of a Space National Guard, but Saltzman said at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing earlier this month that the Space Force cannot afford to fund another structure while keeping “administrative bureaucracy” levels down.