States are looking at several difficult decisions as a deadline for National Guard funding looms.
Without being reimbursed nearly $521 million for the Capitol response mission, state leaders will be forced to cancel training, furlough employees and cease maintenance, among other actions with far-reaching impacts on readiness.
“Time is running our and these accounts must be funded through the end of the fiscal year,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, the adjutant general of Illinois. Neely and other senior Guard officers discussed the potential impact of the missing funding late last week, as Congress continues to debate how to reimburse the Guard for the five-month Capitol mission.
Neely said the Guard took risk by paying for the mission with funds from personnel and operations accounts. But it did so believing Congress would reimburse the force.
If not provided, the Guard will furlough thousands of full-time employees, ground aircraft and cancel essential training, including pre-deployment exercises.
Most traditional Guardsmen would lose two months of drill pay and some could lose a year toward their retirement.
Neely said the lack of funding would have multiple cascading effects, punishing a force that has worked extremely hard in the past two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous civil unrest missions and repeated deployments for domestic emergencies such as storms and wildfires.
“They acted honorably, they upheld their oaths,” Neely said. “It’s time for the federal government to keep its promise.”
Maj. Gen. Roger Lyles, Indiana adjutant general, warned that lost training opportunities would further degrade a force still recovering from COVID restrictions. It will degrade the ability of governors to deploy ready forces in their state and potentially place soldiers and airmen deploying overseas in harm's way without proper training.
The loss of drill pay could further impact the financial health of the force, he warned, and plays havoc with the schedules of Guardsmen, their families and their employers.
“The impact on our soldiers and our families is going to be very drastic,” Lyles said. “Our soldiers and airmen rely on predictability. So do our employers.”
Brig. Gen. John Driscoll, the land component commander for the Massachusetts National Guard, warned the Guard may not be able to fully recover from missing out on the funding.
“If we can’t train in August and September, we can never get that back,” he said.
Annual training is planned years in advance, Driscoll said. And is often scheduled for August and September. For some Guardsmen, the two months may represent roughly half of their allotted training days for the year.
“Can we recover? Absolutely,” he said. “Will we be as ready? Absolutely not.”