National Guard officers wait on average more than seven months for their promotion paperwork to be processed by state and military officials, and lawmakers want to know why.
On Thursday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth — D-Ill. and a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel — introduced new legislation calling for major reforms to the National Guard Bureau’s federal recognition process, which she believes is unnecessarily complicating guardsmen’s advancement and hurting readiness.
“I know guys who have had to wait and wait and wait and have said ‘I’m just not going to deal with this anymore,’” she said. “There are individuals who are waiting more than a year for recognition.”
The measure would mandate an outside review of the National Guard promotion system and require retroactive pay for delayed promotions, back to 60 days after the date an individual’s promotion packet is filed.
That could mean several hundred dollars in extra money for officers facing some of the longest promotion delays.
But Duckworth said more important is fixing the system, so that mission schedules and plans aren’t disrupted by long waits for advancement.
According to Defense Department data, the average Air National Guard promotion for officers and warrant officers takes about 210 days. Army National Guard promotions currently average about 240 days. Active duty counterparts typically have about half of that wait.
Duckworth said she believes the problem lies with outdated paper systems used by National Guard processors and a lack of oversight into the issue.
“I think if leaders at the Pentagon put their minds to it, they can fix it quickly,” she said. “But I think we have to send a message that this is important.”
Duckworth’s bill is likely to be included in the upcoming Senate debate on the annual defense authorization bill, sweeping military policy legislation that has passed out of Congress for the last five-plus decades.
Senate Armed Services Committee members (including Duckworth) have already begun discussion on the initial drafts of that legislation, and are expected to unveil a committee compromise draft by the end of next month. House and Senate leaders are expected to spend most of the summer negotiating a final version.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.