WASHINGTON (June 3, 2020) — The voice of nearly 45,000 current and former National Guard officers is applauding President Donald Trump’s formal extension of federal support for the National Guard coronavirus mission.
In a memo released by the White House last night, the president authorized the governors to continue to employ Guard soldiers and airmen under section 502(f) of federal Title 32 “to respond to COVID-19 and to facilitate economic recovery” through Aug. 21.
The memo is a follow-up to his May 28 tweet committing to the extension.
Title 32 provides the federal legal framework for the Guard in a state status. For the COVID-19 emergency, it enables the Guard to respond under the command of the governors while the federal government covers pay and allowances.
Nearly 40,000 Guard soldiers and airmen in 44 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia are on the coronavirus front lines under Title 32.
“The men and women of the National Guard greatly appreciate this added time to complete their missions,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “Many governors and members of Congress had requested this extension, but the matter was the president’s call. And we’re very pleased he agreed.”
Guardsmen nationwide are performing a multitude of coronavirus duties in support of state and local authorities. The missions include distributing protective equipment to hospitals, staffing mobile COVID-19 test centers, managing food banks and delivering food, and disinfecting nursing homes.
Robinson calls Title 32 the “best way” for the Guard to respond to a regional or national emergency. It takes the financial burden off the states while keeping the response local and flexible, he said.
“But 502(f) has long been flawed,” he added. “The Pentagon doesn’t like to use it out of fear of not being reimbursed in the timely manner by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And it doesn’t spell out adequate protections for the troops.
NGAUS was a driving force behind the use of Title 32 for the COVID-19 response. It also lobbied the president to extend the original orders to increments of greater than 30 days in order to provide Guardsmen with TRICARE medical coverage.
The association is now encouraging Congress to pass legislation that would give transitional medical coverage to Guardsmen when they demobilize from virus duty Aug. 21.
Guardsmen and Reservists and their families receive six months of medical coverage following overseas deployments but nothing after domestic missions.
The Support our National Guard Act would correct that deficiency. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced it in the Senate (S. 3713). Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., introduced it in the House. (H.R. 6967).
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Reporters, Editors & Producers: Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson is available for interviews or to appear as a subject matter expert on issues related to the National Guard. Contact John Goheen at 202-408-5882 to schedule an interview or appearance.
About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on Guard requirements. Today, 142 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.