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Rep Joseph: Air Force proposal threatens Colorado’s workforce pipeline

Jun 6, 2024

This story was originally published in the Daily Camera here.

Transferring Air National Guard (ANG) space missions from the state level to the U.S. Space Force (USSF) threatens Colorado’s civilian aerospace and defense industry and jeopardizes our state’s security and path to prosperity. In March, the Secretary of the Air Force sent a Legislative Proposal — titled Legislative Proposal 480 (LP 480) — to the Hill for consideration by Congress. LP 480 mandates Congress to strip space units out of the Air National Guard and force them into the U.S. Space Force.  

Colorado’s National Guard, with its unique and significant space unit footprint, plays a crucial role in our state’s aerospace and defense industry. This role, which is under threat from LP 480, is not just a part of our industry, but a key aspect that if lost could hinder the growth of aerospace companies in Colorado and eliminate the community-based social mobility ladder that ANG space units represent. 

The Guard has a unique dual mission, with both federal and state responsibilities. During peacetime, the governor commands Guard forces through a state adjutant general and during wartime the Guard is commanded by the President through the Department of Defense. The governor can request Guard action during local or statewide emergencies, such as storms, drought and civil disturbances. As such, LP 480 will affect everything from national security, to capability in space, to governor’s and state’s rights. The ANG makes up 30% of the nation’s space capability and has been conducting space operations for over 27 years. To perform these missions, ANG space personnel receive the same training, security clearances and certifications as their active-duty Air Force (and Space Force) counterparts.  

ANG space operators, who have a unique skill set, often hold full-time jobs in the civilian sector as their primary employment and work part-time within the National Guard. They can convert their training, skills, clearances and certifications into jobs in the civilian aerospace sectors of their local communities. The average Colorado ANG space operator has 10 years of space experience and over 60% work in civilian aerospace and STEM full-time. This interplay between military space experience and the civilian aerospace sector is a testament to their exceptional capabilities and a win-win-win for our nation.  

Space operators in the ANG also bring the skills they gain and develop in the civilian sector to their military duties and, by extension, the war fight. American civilian aerospace and defense companies are on the cutting edge of space capabilities. The technologies and strategies they develop today are the capabilities of our nation’s military tomorrow. ANG space operators working for companies like Lockheed, Raytheon and Northrup Grumman don’t have to wait until tomorrow to learn these systems second-hand. These individual service members get the best of both worlds.

ANG space operators come from every community, socioeconomic class and background. With the only requirements for service being a certain Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score, medical readiness, a high school diploma and a relatively clean criminal background, the ANG represents an unparalleled development pipeline. The ANG takes young Coloradans straight out of high school and, with a six-year contract, provides them the resources and training to become educated, gain leadership experience, obtain a security clearance and purchase a home. This inclusivity and accessibility is a testament to the ANG’s commitment to our people. 

The ANG in Colorado offers every Coloradan a pathway toward prosperity and a high-paying job. As a state and nation, our people are our greatest asset. The community-based ANG model of space operations is an investment in our people that pays off multiple times over. At a time when military recruitment is struggling, the aerospace and defense industry is facing overwhelming vacancies, and income inequality is growing, why would we cut out a process that addresses all three? In doing so, we risk not just losing a process, but also the opportunities it provides to Coloradans. 

ongress must vote “no” on Legislative Proposal 480 to protect our aerospace and defense industry, preserve the industry’s career development pipeline, and ultimately safeguard our national security. These threats to our state cannot be taken lightly, and it is our duty to prevent them. 

Representatives Junie Joseph and Ryan Armagost are the co-chairs of the Aerospace & Defense Caucus.

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