A new bipartisan bill is aiming to allow veterans who served in space operations the opportunity to become legacy Guardians, in an effort to recognize past service members' contributions to creating the newest military branch.
The bill, titled the Space Force Legacy Guardian Recognition Act, inspired language that was added to the House's version of the annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. It was introduced by Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and co-sponsored by Salud Carbajal, D-Calif.; Brian Babin, R-Texas; Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.; and Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
"I'm proud to stand alongside my colleagues in acknowledging the contributions of our nation's Air Force space operators who laid the foundation upon which our current Space Force is built," Babin, the House Space Force Caucus co-chair, said in a press release.
The legislation allows the Department of the Air Force to acknowledge Air Force space operations veterans as honorary separated members of the Space Force, to be referred to as "Legacy Guardians."
The language mostly puts the ball in the Department of the Air Force's court, giving it the authority to establish the process and determine effective dates, eligibility criteria and other matters.
"It is important to note that designation as a USSF Legacy Guardian under this legislation does not entitle individuals to additional benefits beyond those listed above," said a press release from the Space Force Association, a military advocacy organization that endorsed the legislation.
Rhonda Sheya, a spokeswoman for the Space Force Association, told Military.com that the effort is not included in the Senate version of the NDAA, but said the measure has not been controversial.
The Space Force, being only three years old, does not have many veterans and still remains the smallest service branch with a little over 8,000 Guardians.
Many of the ranks are filled with transfers from other services, and former Air Force service members contribute largely to the branch's numbers.
The Legacy Guardian status would be open only to past Air Force service members in space operations, not other service branches like the , or .
The Department of the Air Force's 2024 budget requests growing the Space Force to 9,400 Guardians, which would add 800 personnel to its active-duty number of 8,600 in its 2023 budget, according to details released earlier this year.