The National Guard is aiming to establish a part-time component for the new Space Force, with the core of the new branch calling Colorado home.
The move still needs congressional approval, but would establish the Space Guard to join the Army and Air components of the National Guard. The Guard inaugurated its push for the new branch by promoting Colorado Guardsman Greg White to major general where he leads the new space operations directorate.
"It’s exciting times in space, and Colorado on the active-duty side and on the Guard side is a key player," White said.
Colorado's Guard has been a pioneer in the space business, with units of satellite troops headquartered in Colorado Springs for the past 25 years. The Army Guard's 117th Space Battalion helps commanders overseas with satellite communications and helps leaders best use the space assets at their disposal.
The Air National Guard's 233rd Space Group has units in Aurora, Colorado Springs and Greeley that focus on missile warning and satellite communications.
White said, like the planned 13,000-member Space Force, the space-aimed Guard branch will be tiny when compared to its sister branches.
"There’s no desire for this to look like the Air Guard and the Army Guard," White said.
But it is growing, with new units in six states and the territory of Guam assisting in space missions.
But getting a Space Guard will require a ton of paperwork. As established, the Space Force has no part-time components and can only draw troops from the active-duty Air Force. Creating a part-time space service means getting enabling legislation and defining which troops will serve in it.
But White said the Guard would bring a new twist to the Space Force.
The Guard, in general, is older and better-educated than its full-time partner services. White said the Guard also has the advantage of bringing in troops who spend their workweeks in the aerospace industry, making them expert in the skills the Space Force requires.
"It is mutually beneficial to our industry and our military," White said.
The Guard also brings built-in allies: State Guard units work with partner nations, in Colorado's case that's Jordan and Slovenia, which can help build the network of allied nations that's coveted by U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs.
There's another advantage to the Guard that's implied but seldom discussed. With units from coast to coast, the National Guard carries with it the weight of lawmakers from 50 states who support its programs, making the Guard the most powerful branch of the military in Congress.
The Guard also works directly with state governments. White said in California and Colorado, Guard troops are using military satellites used to spot missile launches to help state authorities track wildfires.
"Instead of a jackknife, you get a multitool with the National Guard," White said.
When the new Space Guard will come to fruition is up in the air. Draft legislation has been presented to Congress, but the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual Pentagon policy bill that would be the vehicle to build the Space Guard, is weeks behind schedule as lawmakers wrestle with the crisis caused by the coronavirus.
Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said major work on that bill is set for June.
But the Guard is pushing hard, and usually gets what it asks for in the House and Senate.
And Guard leaders want the issue resolved quickly.
"It is something we think needs to happen soon," White said.