Proposed 'Air and Space Guard' Would Stop Space Force from Getting its Own Component

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Air National Guard member prepares to board C-17 Globemaster.
A Hawaii Air National Guard aircrew member steps toward a C-17 Globemaster III May 18, 2021, at Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif. The aircraft and aircrew flew to California to validate their ability to recover a splashed-downed team of astronauts during a contingency rescue event. (Staff Sgt. Stefany Leyva/U.S. Air National Guard)

Lawmakers have proposed changing the name of the U.S. Air Force's military reserve force, signaling that creating a separate reserve component for the Space Force is likely off the table.

In its markup of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization legislation, the Senate Armed Services Committee put forward a proposal to change the name of the Air National Guard to the "Air and Space National Guard," according to a summary of the bill text released Thursday.

The language comes as key leaders, including Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, have been advocating to Congress about the need for a part-time volunteer force within the Space Force.

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Top officials sought to create a Space Force National Guard almost immediately after the sixth military branch was founded in 2019. Leaders from the Air Force and Space Force last month said they had completed a study required by the 2021 NDAA detailing how best to organize Guard and Reserve personnel within the Space Force, and said the study would soon advance to lawmakers despite its original March deadline. 

Nearly 2,000 personnel across 14 National Guard units with space-related missions are located in California, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, Ohio, New York and Guam. Arkansas also has one unit with a space-focused targeting mission. In February 2020, the adjutants general of California, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida and Colorado made a case that their Guardsmen, who already do extensive work on offensive and defensive space missions, should report directly to the Space Force.

According to its budget request, the National Guard provides 60% of the Space Force's offensive electronic warfare capability. Roughly 11% of the Defense Department's space personnel are Guardsmen, Hokanson told lawmakers in May. 

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Hokanson's predecessor, also called for the National Guard's space units to converge under the Space Force. But the proposal was met with indifference or, in some cases, with increased scrutiny. 

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters in February that committee members would "consider" the results of the organizational study when planning for the NDAA legislation. 

Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat and chair of the House Defense Appropriations panel, questioned the funding necessary to create a Space Guard. 

"I'm looking forward to a breakdown on how much this is going to cost to set up a Reserve and a Guard Space Force," she told Hokanson during the May hearing. 

-- Steve Beynon contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Space National Guard Proposal Headed to Congress Soon, Top Leaders Say

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