A group of senators is again seeking to create a Space National Guard, arguing it would boost readiness and efficiency and retain talent. 

A group of senators is again seeking to create a Space National Guard, arguing it would boost readiness and efficiency and retain talent.  (Mauricio Campino/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — A group of senators is again seeking to create a Space National Guard, arguing it would boost readiness and efficiency and retain talent.

The establishment of a combat reserve component for the military’s newest service has been discussed in Congress for years but has so far failed to become law amid congressional resistance and opposition from the White House.

A reintroduced bill in the Senate to create a Space National Guard is reigniting the discussion. More than a dozen Republican and Democrat senators are supporting the legislation.

“The U.S. needs to innovate in order to combat the New Axis of Evil’s increasing aggression,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., one of the bill’s sponsors. “By establishing a Space National Guard, we will be better prepared to take on the challenges from Communist China, Iran, Russia and North Korea.”

The Space Force was created in 2019 to protect American interests in space, including maintaining satellites that are used for communications, observing the weather and monitoring missile launches from other countries.

Proponents have said a reserve component would allow the Air National Guard units now conducting space missions to move out of the jurisdiction of the Air Force, which no longer performs space missions, and put members of those units on clear career paths.

“This legislation would require no additional personnel, units, or facilities, and would improve communication, reduce costs, allow these dedicated space warfighters to continue supporting the Space Force’s missions at a high level,” wrote lawmakers who introduced a Space National Guard bill in the House in 2023.

Congress last year instructed the Pentagon to explore the feasibility of moving space functions performed by the Air National Guard to the Space Force, including the possibility of creating a Space National Guard.

But efforts to establish a Space National Guard have struggled to gain traction on Capitol Hill beyond the drafting stages of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill setting Pentagon policy.

The White House continues to voice strong opposition to a Space National Guard, contending it would create “new bureaucracy with far-reaching and enduring implications and expense.” The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2020 that it would cost at least an additional $100 million per year to maintain the component.

The National Guard Bureau in 2021 disputed that assessment and said a Space National Guard would not create additional expenses because personnel and other resources would be transferred from existing organizations. It estimated a one-time cost of about $200,000 for new signs and other changes.

The National Guard Association of the United States, a lobbying group for National Guard issues, has long advocated for a Space National Guard. It said last year that a reserve component would give the service “surge-to-war capability” to meet the challenges posed by near-peer adversaries.

Nearly 1,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen perform space-related operations across 14 units in seven states and one U.S. territory, according to the association.

The Space Force is in the midst of figuring out how to integrate part-time guardians into its workforce as required by the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The new hybrid model will allow service members to switch between full-time and part-time work without officially transferring to a National Guard unit or a Reserve component.

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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