50 Governors Oppose Federal Plan to Move National Guard Units: ‘Power Grab’
50 Governors Oppose Federal Plan to Move National Guard Units: ‘Power Grab’

By Jack Phillips

Governors from 50 states, as well as several territories, said they oppose a Department of Defense (DOD) plan to move state National Guard units to the U.S. Space Force, with a separate governor alleging Monday the plan is a “power grab.”

In March, the DOD sent Congress a proposal that would allow the federal department to send some state guardsmen to the U.S. Space Force. It would require Congress to pass a new law that requires governors to allow changes to National Guard units under Title 32 and Title 10 of the U.S. Code.

But a coalition of bipartisan governors said in a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that the move would undermine their authority and circumvent federal laws.

“Governors must maintain full authority as Commanders in Chief of these assets to effectively protect operational readiness and America’s communities,” their letter, signed by 48 governors, stated.

The letter argued that the measure would impact governors’ capacities to use the Guard in case of an emergency, natural disaster, or other crises.

“Legislation that sidesteps, eliminates or otherwise reduces Governors’ authority within their states and territories undermines longstanding partnerships, precedence, military readiness and operational efficacy,” the letter said. “This action also negatively affects the important relationships between Governors and DOD at a time when we need to have full trust and confidence between the two to meet the growing threats posed by the era of strategic competition as well as natural disasters.”

The only governors who didn’t sign the letter are Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. However, both sent their own respective letters opposing the move.

On Monday, Abbott sent a letter on Monday that he opposed the proposal and claimed that the DOD directive is tantamount to a “power grab for the National Guard” to give U.S. military secretaries “unilateral authority to dismantle National Guard units on a whim.”

“The U.S. Department of the Air Force should retract Legislative Proposal 480. Instead of attempting such a power grab in Congress, the U.S. Department of the Air Force should work with the affected governors to build up the Space Force in a way that is consistent with federal law,” his letter stated, adding that governors should remain the commanders-in-chief of their National Guard units.

Mr. DeSantis issued his own letter that opposed the measure, arguing that Florida needs its National Guard units to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes.

“As a low-lying, storm-prone state, Florida is uniquely vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding that require significant, operationally ready logistics and disaster support, including from our National Guard units,” he wrote in the letter dated May 3. “This legislative proposal weakens that guarantee and sidesteps the authority of the Governor to ensure Floridians are prepared and protected to address whatever domestic emergencies may arise, especially as we approach another hurricane season.”

Other than the governors, the National Guard Association of the United States asserts that the plan would strip states of their own space capabilities and proposes the creation of the Space National Guard.

During a Senate hearing last month, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers that “500-plus people” would be shifted to the Space Force from National Guard units, claiming that the reaction to the proposal is overboard. The change would have a small impact on around 1,000 National Guard members who are performing space duties across about seven states.

He also told the Space Symposium event last month that “we’ve had much, much more political attention over this issue than it deserves, in my mind.”

“We’re talking about a few hundred people. The numbers for any state are less than I think 2 percent at most of their Guard people, and they’re only a handful of states that are affected,” Mr. Kendall remarked. “People should look very carefully at this before they make a snap judgment about whether they’re comfortable with the change or not,” he added.

According to the bill, Air National Guardsman with space-connected missions would be moved to federal control and would be under the U.S. Air Force’s Space Force. It noted that Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York, and Ohio have their Guard members perform space-related missions.

The DOD and White House were contacted for comment Tuesday.

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