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National Guard to Congress: Pay us back for Capitol security mission

Guard leaders say they will have to deny their soldiers and airmen pay unless they are reimbursed for deployments to the nation’s capital.
Members of the National Guard are seen outside the Capitol on January 19, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images file

National Guard leaders warned Friday that they will have to cancel annual training and deny their soldiers and airmen pay unless they are reimbursed for deployments to the nation’s capital in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot.

State National Guards used nearly $521 million of their funding for fiscal year 2021 to pay for the deployment, which stretched from January to May, officials said.

But the replenishment of the funds has been held up due to an impasse in Congress over a bill to beef up security at the Capitol.

Without the reimbursement of the funds, the guard will have to take drastic action, including furloughing employees, grounding aircraft, halting some military school and canceling weekend drills, the officials said.

“Time is running out,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard.

Members of the National Guard take a rest in the Rotunda of the Capito on January 13, 2021.Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images file

If annual drills in August and September are cancelled, the men and women in the Army and Air National Guard will lose two months of salary. Many will in fact owe the government money because money for their healthcare and retirement plans will still be deducted.

This could “create a significant debt,” according to Neely.

Neely said it would send “a terrible message” to the men and women who “acted honorably and upheld their oath” by deploying to D.C. to provide security.

“It’s time for the federal government to keep its promise” and reimburse the Guard, he added.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have blamed each other for the delay in replenishing the National Guard funding. Democrats have offered a spending bill substantially larger than the proposal pushed by Republicans.

Maj. Gen. Roger Lyles, the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, said the lack of funding will degrade readiness because annual drill and upcoming training exercises are at risk of being cancelled.

Lyles said the cancellations would have “a very drastic” impact on soldiers, airmen, and their families, because they need to let their employers know when they’re training and away from work.

The men and women rely on their Guard paychecks for mortgages, car payments, and family expenses, Lyles said, and all of this uncertainty “puts them in harm’s way.”

Brig. Gen. John Driscoll, the land component command commander for the Massachusetts National Guard, said the funding shortfall strains the trust of the men and women in the Guard.

The generals warned that National Guard from all 50 states, three territories, and Washington, D.C. will be impacted.