Congressional report refutes claim that a Space National Guard would be ‘cost neutral’
WASHINGTON — A new report by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that standing up a Space National Guard as a reserve component of the U.S. Space Force would cost the Pentagon about $100 million a year.
The CBO estimate released on June 2 contradicts arguments made by the National Guard Bureau that if a Space National Guard were established, it would not create additional costs because people and other resources would be transferred from existing organizations.
The cost of a Space National Guard is one of the concerns being weighed by DoD in the face of growing pressure from the National Guard Bureau and its congressional supporters to establish a separate component for space.
Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told lawmakers in March that the issue is simple: If there is a Space Force, there should be a Space National Guard. Space units now serving under the Air National Guard and Army National should be aligned with the Space Force, Lengyel said. “We mirror the culture of our parent service.”
Eight states — Alaska, Hawaii, California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Arkansas and Ohio — and Guam have approximately 1,500 personnel who specialize in space operations. Most are from the Air National Guard and a small number are from the Army National Guard.
CBO estimated that if 1,500 personnel in existing Air national Guard and Army national Guard units transferred to the new Space National Guard, DoD would incur about $100 million in annual operations and support costs. There would also be onetime costs of about $20 million for the construction of additional facilities.
The states and territory affected by the transfer already have organizations to administer and command its national Guards, so moving units to the Space National Guard probably would not require much more overhead, said CBO. “However, it is likely that a small number of additional personnel would be needed in each state or territory affected, as well as some personnel for national functions,” the report said.
CBO’s estimate included a small force of approximately 100 additional full-time personnel to perform national functions and an additional 20 full-time personnel for each state and territory, or 260 additional personnel total. If such a lean force was not achievable, costs would be higher.
Although nobody has proposed a larger Space National Guard, CBO went ahead and estimated what one would cost if it were about one-third the size of the Space Force — the same size that the Air national Guard currently is in relation to the Air Force. That would be a Space National Guard of about 5,000 people, and its operational annual costs would be from $385 million to $490 million a year.
DoD and U.S. Space Force officials said they are considering options other than a Space National Guard to support the U.S. Space Force. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20 created the U.S. Space Force but did not direct the establishment of a Space National Guard. The law did require the Pentagon to submit a report with recommendation on how reserve components would support the U.S. Space Force. Officials told SpaceNews that the report has been completed but has not yet been sent to Congress.