During a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week, top leadership from the Air Force and Space Force said they have completed a report required by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act detailing whether and how to best organize Guard and Reserve components within the Space Force. The report was originally due to Congress in March.
"We've done the report; it's complete. It's all through coordination; it's waiting for a final briefing," Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond told lawmakers.
Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth added that the report is with leadership within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and soon will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget before congressional committees receive the final study.
"We've been operating with the Guard for 25 years. It provides critical capability, both people-wise and equipment-wise," Raymond said. "We can't do our job without them today, and we can't do our job in the future without them."
Nearly 2,000 personnel across 14 National Guard units with space-related missions reside in California, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, Ohio, New York and Guam. Arkansas also has one unit with a space-focused targeting mission.
According to its posture statement, 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 last month.
Top brass sought a Space Force National Guard almost immediately after the sixth military branch was founded in 2019. In February 2020, five adjutants general made a case that their Guardsmen, who already do extensive work on offensive and defensive space missions, should report directly to the Space Force.
"Personally, I don't see how we have a Space Force without a Space Guard," said then-Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, the adjutant general for the Colorado National Guard. Loh, now a lieutenant general, has since been promoted to oversee the Air National Guard.
During a briefing at the time, Loh told reporters that those personnel create a "force multiplier" of expertise, not only because of their military service but also because many use relevant skills in their civilian day jobs.
Loh and other generals said that aligning the Space Force with a Space Guard element would also help the service become more independent.
"If we don't bring the Guard over, then I don't know if they're really truly independent. Because then we have to go ask, 'Mother, may I?' to somebody else," said Brig. Gen. Patrick Cobb, deputy director of space operations at the National Guard Bureau headquarters, during the press briefing with Loh.
Cobb explained that additional steps are required if the Space Force needs to call up Guardsmen attached to other services. He compared space to cyberwarfare, noting that officials 10 years ago were questioning whether the Guard should be involved in cyber activities.
"There were some folks who [were] trying to not allow us to get into cyber," Cobb said. "Fast-forward to now, we've been doing support for elections -- governors and state election officials have asked for it."
-- Steve Beynon contributed to this report.