U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rhyan Acey performs maintenance on the AN-TSQ-180 Milstar Communications Vehicle July 28, 2021 at the 233rd Space Group, Greeley Air National Guard Station, Greeley, Colorado. (Master Sgt. Amanda Geiger 
140th Wing via DVIDS)

WASHINGTON — The governors of all 50 US states, plus those of the three US territories, are urging the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) to reject a Pentagon proposal to shift hundreds of serving Air National Guard personnel to the Space Force.

In a letter addressed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and published today, the governors express their “strong objection” to Legislative Proposal 480 (LP480), which they argue “would would weaken or eliminate their authority over the National Guard and threaten readiness and operational efficacy of their units.”

The letter follows an April 9 press release by the National Governors’ Association protesting the Air Force’s March 29 proposal.

In their letter, the governors argue that the move would violate their prerogatives under US Code Title’s 10 Section 18238, which “states that there should be no removal or withdrawal of a unit of the Air National Guard without consultation and approval from Governors.” In addition, the letter elaborates, Title 32 Section 104 “states there is to be no change in the branch, organization, or allotment of National Guard units within a state or territory without the approval of its Governor.”

In essence, the governors are outraged at what they see as a Defense Department end-run around their authorities that they say could set a negative precedent. This is despite the fact that Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has strongly refuted this characterization, asserting that the move would be a one-off.

“The reaction from the Guard, quite frankly, has been over the top on this,” Kendall told lawmakers earlier this month. “I mean, I read an article this morning by the head of the Guard foundation that this was an ‘existential threat’ to the Guard. We’re talking 500-plus people here.

“We’re not talking an existential threat. No one is suggesting dismantling the Guard. This is a sui generis, a de minimis exception to our norm and it’s necessary to make the Space Force effective as it needs to be. I’m sorry this has become such a politicized issue. It should be very straightforward,” he said.

Member of Congress are split on the proposal’s worth. For example, Colorado’s two Democratic senators, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, as well as fellow state Democrat Rep. Jason Crow, on April 23 issued a statement opposing the legislative proposal. However, Rep. Mike Rogers, R.-Ala., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, supports the move.

“I think that what the Air Force is suggesting is going to be successful,” Rogers told Breaking Defense on April 17.

Meanwhile, Bennet and Hickenlooper in January co-sponsored a bill with Sens. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., Laphonza Butler, D.-Calif., Alex Padilla, D.-Calif., James Risch, R-Idaho, Marsha Blackburn, R.-Tenn., Mike Crapo, R.-Idaho, Rick Scott, R.-Fla., and Kyrsten Sinema, I.-Ariz., to instead create a separate Space National Guard. Among those, only Scott is a member of the SASC.