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Colorado joins opposition to Space Force takeover of some Air National Guard duties

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s Democratic congressional and state leaders are supporting an effort to stop the U.S. Department of Defense from transferring Air National Guard Units to the U.S. Space Force.

U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet and U.S. Representative Jason Crow, Governor Jared Polis and Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, all Democrats, and Major General Laura Clellan of the Colorado National Guard issued a statement backing an effort by the Council of Governors of the National Governors Association. The group of 10 governors wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stating they were “deeply disappointed” in the move for several reasons.

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Legislative Proposal 480, a 101-page document, states the secretary of the Air Force will transfer to Space Force the “covered space functions of the Air National Guard of the United States” and without regard to sections of the U.S. Code. The proposal “signals contempt toward the federal-state relationship broadly, and the Council of Governors specifically,” according to the letter from the National Governors Association.

The statement from Colorado’s elected officials said the policy would forcibly transfer the Air National Guard units performing space missions into the U.S. Space Force as “part-timers.” It also said more than a third of all space-related National Guard members are in Colorado.

“Colorado strongly opposes any involuntary removals of Air National Guard space units and personnel and any proposed reductions to the Colorado National Guard’s force," Polis said. "This proposal from the Air Force threatens the National Guard’s ability to support vital national security missions and domestic emergency operations."

The Air National Guard's space units comprise more than 30 percent of America’s total space capability and have conducted space missions for almost 30 years, according to Clellan. She estimated the proposal would cause a seven- to 10-year gap in the nation’s space capabilities and cost up to $1 billion.

“In Colorado, our average space operator has 10 years of experience and over 60 percent work in aerospace and defense, cyber security, and STEM fields,” Clellan said. “Air National Guard units’ personnel work in industry and engage with the State Partnership Program, which offers unparalleled opportunities for relationships with industry and partner nations in military space operations.”

Once the space functions of a unit of the Air National Guard have been transferred, the proposal gives the secretary of the Air Force three possible actions: change the status of the unit to Space Force instead of the Air National Guard, deactivate the unit after revoking the unit’s federal recognition or assigning the unit a new federal mission.

“By abandoning the traditions of the Federal and State National Guard partnership, United States Air Force’s proposal threatens to undo over 120 years of precedent and the very authority Congress placed on governors,” Bennet said in the statement. “USAF’s evolution cannot come at the expense of the National Guard’s integrity and longstanding foundation. We must reject this flawed proposal.”