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Colorado governor would have say in transfer of National Guard units

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 the new military branch by allowing it to absorb state-run units involved in space operations. Such a move could potentially affect the Colorado Guard’s 233rd Space Group, based in Greeley, which has 393 members.

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

Colorado Congressman Jason Crow speaks during a news conference at Buckley Space Force Base with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, left, and Sen. John Hickenlooper on Sept. 8, 2023, in Aurora.  (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., speaks during a news conference at Buckley Space Force Base with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, left, and Sen. John Hickenlooper on Sept. 8, 2023, in Aurora. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

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

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

The amendment would also require the US Secretary of Defense to submit annual reports to Congress on the status of any transfer 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 Space Force’s bases with major operations are in Colorado: Buckley in Aurora, Peterson Space Force Base and U.S. Space Force Base Schriever Space in the Colorado Springs area.

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