Space Force's Leader Warns of 'Sheer Amount of Work' Needed to Start New Part-Time Service Model

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman
Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman speaks during the U.S. Space Force’s 4th birthday celebration at the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., Dec. 20, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman, the head of the Space Force, told Guardians in an internal memo that he hopes to bring full-time reservists into the service by this summer under a new part-time and full-time model signed into law late last year.

In the memo, which was shared online and confirmed as authentic to by Space Force officials, Saltzman told Guardians there is still a lot of work to be done but that he hopes the service can move quickly on some aspects of the new plan.

"Let me acknowledge the sheer amount of work we have ahead of us," Saltzman wrote. "We want all reserve space professionals to join the Space Force, full or part time. To make that possible, there are a lot of administrative details we must solve."

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The new Space Force Personnel Management Act was passed as part of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in late 2023. It offers active-duty Guardians and Air Force reservists working space-related missions an opportunity to serve either full time or part time -- a unique model from the other branches, which often rely on the National Guard or reserve component to accommodate part-time service.

Passing the legislation was a major accomplishment for the Space Force, which hopes the new policy will allow it to retain skilled service members who are often lured away by higher-paying civilian jobs and, conversely, could serve as a way to entice civilians in the private sector to consider military service.

Saltzman said in his internal memo that the service will "open the first transfer window this summer for full-time Guardians" to those Air Force reservists who currently volunteer full time.

He added the Space Force "will use a phased approach beginning with reservists in full-time status who volunteer for full-time duty" and added those who "volunteer without caveat, we will work to place you based on your prioritized desires."

The Air Force Reserve has only one space-focused wing, the 310th Space Wing out of Schriever Space Force Base in Colorado.

The new Space Force model would allow Guardians on active status to serve on sustained duty -- full-time, active-duty status -- or "not on sustained duty."

"Not on sustained duty," essentially part time, requires Guardians to "participate in at least 48 scheduled drills or training periods during each year and serve on active duty for not less than 14 days (exclusive of travel time) during each year; or serve on active duty for not more than 30 days during each year," according to the NDAA text.

Another option for Guardians would be inactive status, comparable to Individual Ready Reserve status in the Air Force, in which a service member would not receive pay and would not have to attend drill unless called upon to do so or they volunteer to return to the active-duty force.

After transferring over full-time Air Force reservists with space knowledge, Saltzman said the Space Force will then focus on those wanting to serve part time, but that'll be a much larger ball of yarn to untangle.

"Let me set expectations," Saltzman wrote. "We have yet to put in place the administrative processes to manage a part-time force -- promotions, retirements, and more are still to be decided. I have pressed our team to move quickly, but this is going to take time."

What the Space Force's new part-time structure means for the future of the roughly 1,000 Air National Guardsmen who perform space-related missions is still unclear.

The 2024 NDAA tasked the Pentagon to finish a report by Feb. 1, 2025, that would "assess the feasibility and advisability of moving all units, personnel billets, equipment and resources performing core space functions under the operational control of the Space Force, or otherwise integral to the Space Force mission that may exist in the National Guard ... into a single-component Space Force," previously reported.

Related: Space Force Guardians Can Now Choose to Work Part Time Under New Policy Change

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