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Senators 'Fed Up' with DoD S&I Pay Parity Delays

05-29-24 WR Pay Parity WEBSITE
05-29-24 WR Pay Parity WEBSITE
Washington Report

Three senators are impatient with the Pentagon for being 20 months late in providing Congress with a required implementation plan to give National Guardsmen and Reservists the same special and incentive pay as their active-duty counterparts.

"I am absolutely fed up," Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., told Military.com in an interview published May 22.

"I know when I'm being slow-rolled, and I'm being slow-rolled on this because active duty doesn't want to provide the same benefits to our Guard and Reserve troops," added Duckworth, a retired Army Guard aviator who is also a current member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Retired Maj. Gen. Francis M. McGinn, the NGAUS president, said DoD was "slow rolling the will of Congress" on S&I pay in two Feb. 5 letters to congressional defense leaders asking for an investigation into the agency's delay.

The U.S. military offers S&I pay to compensate personnel for maintaining special skills such as flight pay for pilots and jump pay for paratroopers.

But Guardsmen and Reservists receive just a small fraction of the amount that active-duty personnel get for maintaining the same standard of proficiency.

This disparity was supposed to change with the enactment of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

A provision in the fiscal 2022 NDAA required the Pentagon to "pay a member of the reserve component of an armed force incentive pay in the same monthly amount as that paid to a member in the regular component of such armed force performing comparable work requiring comparable skills."

This law gave DoD until Sept. 30, 2022, to provide an implementation plan for S&I pay parity and to certify that the change has no adverse effects.

But six months after the deadline, the Pentagon told Congress in a report that active-duty service members could leave for the Guard and Reserves if incentive pay was increased.

DoD officials added that as written, the law would require some new incentive payments to Guardsmen and Reservists that are only needed for active-duty personnel.

While lawmakers tweaked the law on S&I pay in the fiscal 2024 NDAA to address the Pentagon's concerns, they still have no idea when they will receive an implementation plan.

Duckworth said last week that she wants to see some progress by the time the SASC meets during the second week of June to mark up the committee's version of the fiscal 2025 NDAA.

She added that without progress, she will try forcing movement from the Pentagon. Duckworth did not elaborate on the possible courses of action she would take to get DoD to follow the law on S&I pay.

At a SASC hearing earlier in May, a DoD official said the Pentagon was still studying the issue of S&I pay.

"I'm giving them an opportunity to respond," Duckworth said of DoD's timeline for a new study on the topic. "But certainly for me, everything is on the table. And if I have to throw some sharp elbows come this NDAA, then I will."

Duckworth is not the only senator interested in DoD's handling of S&I pay parity.

"Congress still awaits a full report on the matter," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., the co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus, told NATIONAL GUARD in an April 11 interview.

"If we tell [the Pentagon] to do something, they should do it," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the Republican co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus, told NATIONAL GUARD in an April 10 conversation. "And based on this interview, I’ll get with Sen. Shaheen and we’ll kick their ass."

— By John Goheen