Lamborn: ‘Merit on both sides’ of debate over Space National Guard

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Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Gen. John Raymond support creating a hybrid active-reserve component that provides full-time and part-time service options

WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a key congressional proponent of establishing a Space National Guard, said he would consider an alternative proposal endorsed by Space Force leaders and by the Biden administration.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Space Force chief of space operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond support creating a hybrid active-reserve component that provides full-time and part-time service options. 

“I think there’s merit to what General Raymond and others are advocating in the administration with a different approach,” Lamborn said Sept. 28 at a Defense One online event. 

Lamborn last year partnered with Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) to introduce legislation to establish a Space National Guard as a reserve component of the Space Force. Lamborn and Crow are members of the House Armed Services Committee and their bill was adopted in the House version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Lamborn’s comments on Wednesday suggest there is room for compromise, given that the Biden administration strongly opposes standing up a Space Guard and the Senate version of the NDAA does not include any language on it although some senators have expressed support for a Space Guard.

The question of whether the Space Force should have its own National Guard component became a politically charged topic ever since the Space Force was established in December 2019.

“This is a big debate that is still playing out,” Lamborn said. “But I think there’s merit on both sides of that question, frankly.”

Raymond has argued that the Space Force is too small and too specialized to have a dedicated reserve force, and instead should have a single component with full-time and part-time guardians. He said allowing some service members to work part-time helps recruit and retain people with advanced technical skills who are also in high demand in the private sector. Under the one-component concept, guardians could transition more easily between traditional active-duty and reserve component positions. 

A key concern raised by members of Congress is the future of about 1,500 personnel currently in the Air National Guard who support space operations, many of whom are based in Colorado. Some could choose to join the Space Force but those who don’t might be reassigned to support Air Force units. 

Lamborn said he and Crow have worked on this issue for years and it’s time to “get it resolved.” He acknowledged that a Space National Guard “along the lines of what we’ve proposed is more going with the status quo, more of what we’re used to.” Meanwhile, what Kendall and Raymond have put  forth is a new way of doing business. 

“Different approaches are sometimes very justified,” said Lamborn. The Space Force needs “highly qualified experts who have expertise in niche areas” and this alternative approach might be worth considering. 

Lamborn insisted that he wants to settle the issue sooner rather than later so everyone can move forward. “I think we can agree there’s merit on both sides. But let’s go ahead and get moving here.”