Congress really wants to make a Space Force National Guard happen

In space, no one can join the Guard.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
space force dress uniform pants
The Space Force first debuted its prototype dress uniform in September 2021. (U.S. Air Force photos)

Space Force is still adjusting its uniforms and its raison d’etre, but lawmakers want to give the newest branch its own National Guard. 

For the third year in a row, a draft version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision for creating a new Space National Guard. The draft, obtained by both Breaking Defense and Politico, would add 800 new active-duty Guardians to the fledgling service branch, and create a Space National Guard that would support the active-duty members of Space Force. 

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Currently space-related work in the National Guard is handled by the Air National Guard, as the Air Force was in charge of space defense and satellites before the creation of the Space Force. 

The proposal for this NDAA does have one big change over past calls. Instead of a Space Force Reserves, this draft would create a kind of “hybrid” force made up of the active-duty Guardians and members of a possible Space National Guard.

The NDAA also calls for a new Space Force liaison role to brief and interact with Congress; currently the Air Force handles that relationship. 

As a draft, there’s no guarantee it will succeed, but its repeated appearance shows how much some lawmakers want to make a Space Force National Guard a reality. It has failed in previous years, in part due to the expected cost. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in 2021 a Space National Guard could cost half a billion dollars and not have a noticeable benefit compared to the current set up. 

As with the regular Space Force, potential Space National Guardsmen would not actually deploy to space. Instead, personnel would help in overseeing the military’s satellites, surveillance systems and space planes. 

The idea for a Space National Guard has been floated since the Space Force was created in 2019. It has received bipartisan support, but failed to become a reality. In May 2022, Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Marco Rubio (R-Fl) introduced legislation to pull personnel from the Air National Guard to create a Space National Guard. National Guard leadership has also been in favor of it, arguing for the creation of a special Space National Guard.

Space Force itself has been dealing with its own growing pains. It is currently pursuing investments in new satellites, launch capabilities, overseeing missile early warning systems and trying to build out the number of Guardians in the branch. Currently the force has 8,600 Guardians and different budget proposals, including President Joe Biden’s, call on adding several hundred more. A $30 billion budget request outlined $19.2 billion specifically for research, development and testing. 

House hearings on the 2024 NDAA are set to start on June 21. 

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