DOD Keeping Door Open to Space National Guard

Air National Guard chief Lt. Gen. Scott Rice speaks at an AFA breakfast in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2019. AFA photo by Kianna Gousby.

Defense Department officials are laying the groundwork for a Space National Guard even though the Pentagon’s Space Force proposal did not include provisions for a reserve component, the head of the Air National Guard said May 21.

DOD stood up an internal group under the deputy defense secretary that periodically meets to plan the organizational piece of a new approach to space warfighting, Lt. Gen. Scott Rice said at an AFA breakfast on Capitol Hill.

“They said, ‘Hey, let’s establish the active forces now and then next year, let’s look at how we add more layers of complexity,’” Rice said. “We’re all in on having a Reserve and a Guard piece of space. That hasn’t changed, that’s still there, it’s just not in the language now. It’s more nebulous and not well defined very purposely to allow us to get there quicker.”

About 1,500 ANG members work in space operations across seven states, Rice said. The Guard will decide within the next month where it will place two additional squadrons in the Pacific to bolster the space control mission.

“How would I present the bureaucratic, the operational piece in the bureaucracy into a new Space Command is, I would do it from those seven states,” he said, noting two new squadrons would add about 500 more personnel for a total of nine squadrons. “I would not do 54 states [including Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands] of Space National Guard.”

Rice told reporters after the breakfast he doesn’t expect the Guard’s space mission will change at all under a new Space Force, which Congress is considering as a sixth military service under the Air Force as part of the fiscal 2020 defense budget and policymaking cycle. The challenge, he said, is tasking a largely part-time force with an around-the-clock mission: “It’s not really suited for the Guard.”

But there are other advantages to having space Guardsmen, Rice said. For example, Active Duty forces can draw on the Guard’s expertise instead of reaching out to industry.

“That’s a very cost-effective way to bring somebody in, use them as a part-time employee,” he said of the one-third of the Guard that works full-time. “At the same time, we bring in the expertise and don’t have to compete with industry. We can bring in that skill set where you’ve got CEOs and CIOs of companies coming in and working in the Guard.”