National Guard officials may have to cancel annual training and some drill weekends if they aren’t reimbursed for the funds used to send troops to Washington, D.C., following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol building.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters at the Pentagon that his organization paid the $521 million needed to rush 26,000 personnel to the nation’s capital from every state and territory in the U.S. The Guard tapped into its own budget, pulling money from operations and maintenance accounts to pay for the troops who were standing guard for several months.
“That’s a significant amount to any organization — especially the National Guard,” said Gen. Hokanson, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We need to be reimbursed for that funding.”
If the National Guard doesn’t get reimbursed “fairly soon” he warned, the service may be forced to cancel or dramatically reduce training and drills for the rest of the fiscal year, along with slashing operational maintenance requirements.
“It will have a very significant impact on National Guard readiness if we’re not able to resolve that in a timely manner,” he said.
Gen. Hokanson said the Guard was working closely with Congress to get the $521 million returned to them.
He said it has been an “extraordinary” year for the National Guard. In June, almost 120,000 Guardsmen were mobilized, either supporting operations overseas or in domestic missions such as numerous COVID-19 relief programs. It was the largest deployment of Army and Air National Guard troops since World War II.
Military commanders acknowledge that the increased operational tempo has caused a strain on the individual troops. Gen. Hokanson said the Guard is working to find a proper balance between the obligations to the military, the civilian job and the family needs. But it hasn’t adversely impacted their recruiting. In past years, the Army National Guard would often meet its goal in the nick of time, just before the end of the fiscal year in September.
“We met our recruiting goal in May of this year, which is historically early,” he said. “A lot of our Guardsmen have reenlisted or decided to stay within the organization. Our recruiting has been up as well.”
Gen. Hokanson said he regularly visited the National Guard troops who were deployed to Washington, D.C. to gauge their reaction.
“They said this is what [they] signed up to do. They felt very proud to do their part,” he said.