A fresh drive is underway to establish a Space National Guard. Lawmakers believe the price is reasonable.

Date:

A fresh drive is underway to establish a Space National Guard. Lawmakers believe the price is reasonable.

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Thursday, March 09, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • Legislators from seven states and one U.S. territory having National Guard units with military space missions hope to persuade the administration and hesitant senators this year that a Space National Guard is the best approach to send part-time personnel to the Space Force.

  • Yet, the White House and the Pentagon are unconvinced, and many senators prefer to wait and see what Air Force and Space Force chiefs suggest.

  • In a 2020 report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the expenses of developing smaller and bigger models for a Space National Guard.

  • Opponents see the proposal as a power grab by Guard and state leaders, and even some who see a Space Guard as inevitable aren’t certain it’s necessary just now.

  • The House Military Services Committee will likely include a Space Guard in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, as it has done with little controversy in the previous two years.

Legislators from seven states and one U.S. territory having National Guard units with military space missions hope to persuade the administration and hesitant senators this year that a Space National Guard is the best approach to send part-time personnel to the Space Force. Yet they still have a long way to go.

Proponents hope to persuade sceptics that the cost is substantially lower than the administration estimates that fueled the first opposition. They’re also counting on a long-delayed Air Force paper outlining how to structure the space guard and reserve missions best. And one prominent supporter is addressing the Space Force’s top general directly.

“I believe momentum is rising,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) in an interview. He stated that the current arrangement, in which members of the Air National Guard with space-related duties would remain in the Air Guard, is “not long-term feasible.”

The Space Force’s complex job involves monitoring missile warnings, space launches, and nuclear detonations. As a result, it will most likely rely primarily on part-time soldiers with high-tech knowledge from their day jobs who do not want to commit to the military full-time. Nevertheless, those weekend warriors are now part of the Air National Guard, which supporters of a new organization believe complicates training and manning for the Space Force.

Several notable MPs from both parties support a separate Space Guard. Crow and Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military space affairs, are presenting a Space Guard bill, while Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are driving Senate legislation. The National Guard is also on board. Numerous state Guard commanders have publicly advocated for the change, and Guard Bureau Head Gen. Daniel Hokanson agrees.

Yet, the White House and the Pentagon are unconvinced, and many senators prefer to wait and see what Air Force and Space Force chiefs suggest.

Crow intends to present his argument directly to Space Force leadership. The Colorado Democrat stated that he had discussed the subject with Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman multiple times, including at the Munich Security Conference last month.

“We’ll follow up,” Crow stated. “He agreed to meet with me to talk about it.”

Fear of a budget meltdown

The main challenge for supporters — who include space-heavy states like Colorado, Florida, California, and Hawaii — is persuading the Biden administration that forming a new Guard branch out of the current space missions housed in the Air National Guard will not be as costly as they fear.

The White House said in July that administration officials “strongly oppose” creating a separate Space National Guard, citing the “additional overhead” that would come with a new component.

In a 2020 report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the expenses of developing smaller and bigger models for a Space National Guard.

The neutral scorekeeper estimated that a smaller Space Guard, based on relocating 1,500 people from existing Guard units with space missions in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Guam, New York, Ohio, and Wyoming, would result in an additional $100 million in annual operating expenditures.

The CBO also looked at a more significant scenario in which the Space National Guard is proportional to the Air National Guard, the active-duty Air Force, and has a presence in every state and territory. According to CBO, doing so would increase the hypothetical organization’s size to 5,800 people.

OMB stated the almost $500 million annual cost as a reason for opposing the agency’s creation. According to a spokeswoman, the nonpartisan analytical group is not working on an update to the 2020 report.

That sticker shock was a significant impediment to creating an active-duty Space Force years ago. But, Space Guard supporters argue that the high price tag does not fully reflect their ambitions.

“There is a significant misunderstanding about what we are attempting to do here. “We’re merely attempting to grandfather current states and territories with Space Guard and reserve components into a Guard,” Crow explained. “We’re not attempting to develop a new Guard infrastructure in every state. And that appears to be what OMB believes we are attempting.”

Proponents, notably the National Guard Bureau of the United States, argue that the expenses are greatly exaggerated. Some claim that the actual cost might be as low as $250,000 and would not require additional facilities.

‘Organisational schism’

Advocates argue that, like other branches, the Space Force requires its part-time cadre to fully attract the troops needed to carry out its mandate.

Legislators also contend that the Space Force will be unable to compete with other military branches as long as its Guard soldiers remain part of the Air National Guard, threatening training, recruiting, and financing.

Feinstein stated that doing so would address an “organizational disconnect” between active-duty and Guard soldiers in the Space Force.

“A Space Force National Guard would save money because otherwise, we would have to replace the capabilities we currently have in the Guard with new units developed from scratch within the Space Force,” Feinstein said. “A Space National Guard should have been established simultaneously as the Space Force.”

The Space Force has an unusual relationship with Air National Guard units that execute space missions. While under the Air Force’s leadership, the personnel receive operational tasking instructions from the Space Force.

According to Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, head of the Air National Guard and former Colorado adjutant general, the system makes it difficult for these Air National Guard soldiers to receive sufficient training because a different branch oversees it.

“I can’t right now send them to basic military training with the Space Force [the service] they’d be heading off to war with,” Loh told reporters at the Air & Space Forces Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium last year.

Opponents see the proposal as a power grab by Guard and state leaders, and even some who see a Space Guard as inevitable aren’t certain it’s necessary just now.

Apart from the potential cost, they argue that a Space Guard would add more bureaucracy and overhead at a time when the Space Force was designed to be as streamlined and cost-effective as feasible.

Nonetheless, Space Force brass has not publicly embraced the notion, preferring floating a hybrid plan that includes active-duty and reserve guardians.

Sceptics in the Senate

Some members of the Armed Services Committees are awaiting the Space Force plan before taking sides. As part of the fiscal 2024 budget request, the service is scheduled to present a proposal for a reserve component.

“There’s a little bit of trepidation without a strong, solid plan to impose the entirety of the [National Guard Bureau] structure on top of such a small and flexible force,” one congressional staffer said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the argument.

Whether to have a plan or not is expected to resurface in annual defence policy legislation. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI), whose backing is required for a Space Guard proposal to clear the upper chamber, is unconvinced. On the other hand, Reed says he’ll wait to see what Saltzman and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall recommend.

“I don’t feel any movement,” Reed said of senators who support a Space Guard. “But we haven’t brought it up.”

Only one of Feinstein and Rubio’s eight cosponsors is a Senate Armed Services Committee member: Florida Republican Rick Scott.

The House Military Services Committee will likely include a Space Guard in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, as it has done with little controversy in the previous two years. Even House leaders who support the idea are sceptical that the moment has come for a full-fledged Guard.

Christmas tree decoration

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said he’s “OK” with Crow and Lamborn’s plan being included in the defence bill when the committee reviews it in the spring. Still, congressional leaders would eventually decide depending on whether the Space Force agrees.

“I want the Space Force to have everything they need, but I’m going to let them do it at their own pace,” Rogers added. “I believe it is unavoidable that it will occur. I don’t believe it will happen straight now.”

So far, it’s unclear what the Pentagon will recommend or whether top brass will eventually agree to a separate Guard branch.

At his Senate confirmation in September, Saltzman reiterated the Pentagon’s position that a specialised Spspecializedl Guard is not now required. He restated the service’s goal of creating a hybrid model that combines full-time and part-time guardians into “one component.”

And the discussion over how to best train, equip, and supply part-time personnel to the Space Force may be overshadowed by other, more contentious space disputes on Capitol Hill. The Colorado and Alabama delegations are locked in a political battle over the permanent United States Space Command headquarters.

Nevertheless, if the most vociferous supporters of the newest military branch aren’t eager to move forward with a separate Guard, a slow and steady buildup could triumph again.

“It’s similar to a Christmas tree. You begin with only the tree. “Then you begin adding lights, and then you add ornaments,” Rogers continued. “We merely put the tree up that first year, and anything we have done after that has just been building on things. And that’s always been my idea for the Space Force’s expansion.”

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