Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall last week defended the department’s proposal to transfer Air National Guard (ANG) units performing space duties to the U.S. Space Force.

“Creating an entirely new Space [National] Guard really makes no sense for 575 people,” Kendall said in a May 9 interview with the Defense & Aerospace Report podcast. “Keeping them in the Air Guard would be an acceptable outcome, but it’s not a preferred outcome.”

“They really need to be part of the Space Force,” he said. “They’re going to be orphans unless they’re integrated into the Space Force. It’s the right thing to do for those people. There’s gonna be stability. They’re gonna stay where they are doing their jobs, as they have been. That’s what we want. That’s what they want, and we can work our way through the details of how to make that happen. We’re already moving Reserve units into the Space Force through the [Space Force Personnel Management] Act. There’s no problem with that. About 80 percent of those people so far are coming into the Space Force, and I expect we’ll get the same results on the people in the Guard once they understand what their options are.”

Last week, however, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis (Colo.) said that most of the ANG’s space personnel in seven states–Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New York, and Ohio–would not agree to transfer to the Space Force.

“We estimate the risk of loss as upwards of 80 percent of personnel in a domain–the space domain–that is incredibly important for our national security, and only becoming more so,” Polis said in a National Guard Association of the United States statement.

Kendall said on May 9 that the Space Force Personnel Management Act, enacted last December as Sections 1701-1742 of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, “allows us to manage the Space Force as an entity.”

“The Space Force is tiny–only 9,500 people right now, and this [ANG transfer] is about 5 percent of the Space Force so it has a de minimis impact on the states,” he said. “It’s no more than about two percent in the biggest state, and there are only about 6 states that are affected. Unfortunately, it’s been seen, and I’ll take some credit for this unfortunately, I should have reached out earlier to the governors to explain how minor this was and that it was only a one-time thing. But it’s something we need to do. It’s the right answer.”

The National Governors Association has argued that the proposal usurps state authority (Defense Daily, May 9).