The National Guard is $521 million in the hole after sending thousands of troops from a dozen states to guard the Capitol complex after the Jan. 6 insurrection. If Congress doesn’t pass funding to reimburse the Guard, they’re going to have to cancel training, drill weekends and more in order to close that gap.
Canceled drill means not only no paychecks for the Guardsmen who count on them, but it will put those troops in the red, as the deductions that fund their retirement plans and health insurance come out of those paychecks.
“All these payments would fall, for two months, behind and create a significant debt,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, Illinoi’s adjutant general, told reporters on Friday.
To make itself whole, the Guard would have to start shutting down parts of its operation, using that money to pay itself back for the Capitol mission and balance its accounts through the fiscal year, which starts over Oct. 1.
That would coincide with the late summer months usually set aside for training exercises, including those in preparation for upcoming deployments.
The reimbursement is tied up in a spending bill tied to Capitol security. Democrats have pushed for as much as $3.9 billion in support, which would cover the Guard as well, while Republicans are holding out for a slimmer plan.
“Funding for the Capitol Police and National Guard must not be held hostage because the Democrats insist on billions more in spending that lacks full support at this time,” Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a Tuesday statement. “The clock is ticking. Let’s pass what we all agree on.”
If one of those bills doesn’t pass by August, Guard officials said Friday, they’re going to have to start slashing spending.
The Indiana National Guard, for example, is planning to send a military police company and an aviation detachment to support Customs and Border Protection along the U.S.-Mexico border this fall. But they can’t get trained up for that if this funding doesn’t come through.
“And so our inability to conduct that pre planned training is going to hinder our ability to get them on the border in a timely manner,” Maj. Gen. Robert Lyles, Indiana’s adjutant general, told Military Times.
Indiana also has a component of the 54th Security Force Assistance Brigade, as well as its Air Guard fighter and intelligence wings that will have to miss drill and exercises.
In Massachusetts, an Army Guard battalion is scheduled to go to Fort Drum for its annual training later in the summer.
“The weekend drills are like the practices and the annual training, that 15-day period is like, the game. And of course, the Superbowl is when you go overseas and .. we’re in combat.” Brig. Gen. John Driscoll, the head of that state’s Army National Guard, told Military Times. “So they unfortunately have to be pulled from that, because they’re unable to execute that with the pay allowances and the other monies that just go along with supporting that.”
Members of Congress have universally voiced support to reimbursing the Guard, but the situation will come down not only to passing a funding bill, but passing it in time to head off cuts and cancelations that will have to start in August.
“You know, we wouldn’t be having this teleconference today, if we had a high confidence that we would get the funding in time,” Neely said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.