In a screen capture from a video, Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, testifies at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on May 4, 2021.

In a screen capture from a video, Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, testifies at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on May 4, 2021. (House Appropriations Committee)

WASHINGTON — Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told House lawmakers on Tuesday that the establishment of a Space National Guard is a top priority, as he and other service officials are fairly close to finalizing details to be sent to the Pentagon.

The National Guard chief is set to meet Wednesday with acting Air Force Secretary John Roth and Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations, to prepare for a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Hokanson said he has already briefed Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on his recommendations.

“Both the [acting] Secretary of the Air Force and the chief of space operations are in agreement with us of a two-component construct -- that have an active and reserve combination, the combined component, and then a Space National Guard,” Hokanson said.

The general’s comments came at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s subpanel on defense about the Guard’s fiscal year 2022 budget. Hokanson advocated for an increase to “our level of full-time support… so we can become more efficient and effective.”

For Guard members who have invested their career in the space mission, he said, “there should be a home for them in the Space National Guard.”

The National Guard has nearly 1,500 space-focused personnel in the Air and Army National Guards, the majority of whom work in the Air Force.

The National Guard supplies the Space Force with 11% of its space professionals and "the Air National Guard provides 60 percent of the Space Force’s offensive space electronic warfare capability," Hokanson wrote in his testimony. It was unclear Tuesday what those capabilities are.

The Air National Guard is home to 14 space units within seven states -- Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York and Ohio, as well as Guam, Hokanson said.

The Space Force officials, along with members of Congress, have debated the creation of a Space National Guard since the new service’s inception in 2019, though the Defense Department has not yet made a formal recommendation.

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets funding levels for the Pentagon, directed the Defense Department to study the personnel structure of the Space Force, including a possible Guard component, similar to the other services’ National Guard forces. That report has yet to be released.

Six National Guard leaders argued early last year that a Space National Guard is needed to ensure continuity between Guard space operators and their active-duty counterparts.

Planners also have proposed limiting a Space National Guard’s operations to the states and one territory that have space capabilities.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said Tuesday that he continues to be “very supportive” of the creation of a Space National Guard, “especially for states that have existing significant space missions, such as California.”

However, some lawmakers have expressed concern over the cost of standing up a Space National Guard.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated if 1,500 personnel in the Air and Army Guard units were transferred to the new Space National Guard, the Defense Department would incur about $100 million in additional costs annually to operate it. Twenty million would also be necessary as a one-time cost to construct additional facilities, the CBO found. Twitter: @sarahjcamm

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