Air Force secretary rebuffs pleas from governors over Space Force National Guard plans


Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall maintained his support for a proposal that would take some National Guard units and reassign them to the Space Force despite widespread opposition from the governors who have authority over those service members.

The secretary refused to withdraw his support for the controversial proposal during a discussion with governors on Wednesday, according to Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT), who serves as the chairman of the National Governors Association.

“I joined many other governors of both parties to share our extreme frustration about LP480 and pressed Air Force Secretary Kendall to withdraw support for the proposal,” Cox told the Washington Examiner in a statement. “While we’re disappointed in his refusal to do so, we stand willing to collaborate on a solution in good faith, but the administration first needs to comply with the law, which requires consultation and approval from governors before taking National Guard units.”

The Air Force sent this proposal, LP480, to Congress in March. It would allow for the Air National Guard space operations to be incorporated into the Space Force, effectively removing the governors’ authority over those units without their consent despite federal law requiring their approval for these types of decisions. The governors have explicitly opposed the proposed change.

“We hope future discussions with Defense Secretary Austin are more fruitful. In the meantime, we encourage Congress to reject the proposal,” he said.

Cox and Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO), the vice chairman of the NGA, released a statement that read, in part, “Federal law requires consultation and approval from Governors on any decisions to move National Guard units, plain and simple. Until Air Force leaders withdraw LP 480, they are in violation of federal law. We cannot have productive conversations on this matter until LP 480 is set aside. Governors are united on this point.” 

The governors of 48 states and five territories recently signed a letter earlier this month expressing their opposition to the proposal. The governors of Florida and Texas, who did not sign that letter, have also opposed the proposal.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told lawmakers this week that he understood “the governors’ concerns.

“When we stood up Space Force, we took on units and people that were focused on the space mission and incorporated those from the Air Force, from the Army, from the Navy, and incorporated those people and units into Space Force,” Austin said in front of a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.

Eighty-five lawmakers from both the House and Senate signed onto a letter earlier this week addressed to the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees and urged those congressional leaders to reject the inclusion of the proposal in the fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act.

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“When the Space Force was created, we wanted a nimble service with the right workforce. I continue to advocate to keep the Space Force lean from bureaucracy. Our process will consider all options in order to find the right path forward,” HASC Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) told the Washington Examiner.

The National Guard Association of the United States, which is the National Guard’s primary advocate in Washington, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States also oppose this change.

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