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After Colorado leaders protest, Congress scales back proposal to move National Guard units to Space Force

Governor Jared Polis make an announcement to help provide Coloradans with short-term and long-term relief from high energy costs at his office in the Colorado State Capitol on February 6, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/TNS)

A congressional committee on Wednesday scaled back a U.S. military proposal that would have allowed it to force the transfer of potentially hundreds of Colorado Air National Guard members to the Space Force.

Gov. Jared Polis and several members of the state’s congressional delegation had protested the proposal, which is intended to help staff up the newest military branch by allowing it to absorb state-led units involved in space operations. Such a move potentially could affect the Colorado guard’s Greeley-based 233rd Space Group, which has 393 members.

During a hearing, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment that would allow governors to retain their authority to approve any National Guard transfers to a federal military branch. That change to what the U.S. Air Force originally had sought will be part of the National Defense Authorization Act that’s under consideration for the coming fiscal year.

“This is an important step to protect our National Guard and safeguard their commitment to serve,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat whose district includes Aurora’s Buckley Space Force Base, in a statement. “Colorado’s guard members sign up to serve their community and nation, and that service should be respected.”

Crow worked on the amendment with Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who sits on the committee. The two led a bipartisan letter earlier this month that called for such a change to the proposal.

The amendment also would require the U.S. defense secretary to submit annual reports to Congress on the status of any transfers of guard members to the Space Force.

Colorado has a third of all space-related National Guard members, according to Crow’s statement.

The Space Force, established in 2019, has a significant presence in Colorado. U.S. Space Command is headquartered in Colorado Springs, and half of the bases with major Space Force operations are in Colorado — at Buckley in Aurora and Peterson Space Force Base and Schriever Space Force Base in the Colorado Springs area.

Overall, the branch has more than 14,000 military and civilian members, called guardians.

A spokesperson for the state guard told The Denver Post earlier that in the event of a transfer to the U.S. Space Force, the 233rd’s members would have to cross-train into a new specialty to avoid moving to the military branch. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall wrote in a recent letter to the National Governors Association that any transferred units would stay in their current locations.

Polis had been vocal about the military’s bid to allow forced transfers through his role as vice chair of the governors association, which voiced opposition on behalf of state leaders across the country.

“The governor applauds Rep. Crow for his work to advocate and pass this important amendment,” said Shelby Wieman, a Polis spokeswoman, in an email. “This amendment ensures that the Air Force works with governors before changing force structure in their state, as has been the process for over 120 years.”


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