President Donald Trump’s recent decision to seek congressional support for a separate Space Force is reminiscent of President Harry Truman’s similar action after World War II, when the nation contemplated a separate Air Force.
President Trump, similar to President Truman, reached the decision based on his judgment that change is necessary for national security. Space is critical to our national security on multiple levels. And consistent with the Constitution, Congress and the president must agree to form any new service.
As lawmakers began their deliberations, the Trump administration directed the Defense Department to develop a plan presuming congressional concurrence. The Air Force, which has the lead on the effort, offered its advice in a Sept. 14 memo outlining the path to creating a separate Space Force.
The memo is astonishing and disappointing in its recommendations for one of the nation’s most valuable military assets. It would fold “any” current National Guard space units into a federal Space Force Reserve.
Today’s Guard presence in the space mission is substantive, substantial, lethal, ready and effective. The force structure consists of both Army National Guard and Air National Guard units from multiple states. And there are also many other members of the Guard outside these units who work in the space industry.
It seems logical that the nation would see the Guard as an asset in a new Space Force. Not because the Guard thinks so or any other parochial reason, but because it’s in our nation’s best interest to have all the qualities of the Guard in a separate Space Force — should our elected officials decide to form the new service.
It’s also in the best interest of our nation to have our armed forces connected with the American people, and the Guard provides this vital link like no other component.
Guardsmen live in almost every Zip code in America. They have deep roots in their communities and their civilian careers add enduring value to the military enterprise. Guard units are also unique in that they provide military capabilities to both the president during overseas contingencies or time of war and the nation’s governors during a domestic emergency.
I am especially astonished and disappointed because the Air Force should be one of the Guard’s strongest advocates. It’s hard to imagine our Air Force today or tomorrow without the strength, expertise and cost-efficiency the Air National Guard brings. And the Air Force just echoed this in a recent presentation, “The Air Force We Need,” during which service leaders touted the need to grow the Guard and Reserve.
All of this is reminiscent of what happened roughly 70 years ago as Army Air Corps leaders began drawing up plans for a separate Air Force. Despite what the Guard had contributed from the air in World War II and all that it could contribute moving forward, the first leaders of the new separate flying service wanted to go without the Guard.
Eventually, after other voices were heard, it was determined to be in our nation’s best interest to create the Air National Guard for the separate Air Force. The Air National Guard has since become the Air Force’s best wingman, joining the Army National Guard as the Army’s best battle buddy.
In times like these, the Air Force cannot afford to lack vision. It must see the full value of all its available assets.
It takes vision to change the status quo and that is what the president has suggested. As Congress contemplates President Trump’s call for a separate Space Force, I urge our elected officials to consider the National Guard’s space contribution and maintain the Guard presence in the military’s space enterprise.
It’s clearly in the best interest of our nation.
Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar is the adjutant general of Wisconsin and the chairman of the board of the National Guard Association of the United States. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Military Times or its staff.