National Guard unity begins cuts after Congress fails to pay for the Capitol security mission


Next weekend’s annual gun qualification for some members of the Nebraska Guard was canceled to save on travel, accommodation and meals, all of which were cut to save money, Maj. Scott Ingalsbe, spokesman for the Nebraska National Guard, told CNN.

“We just couldn’t bear the costs,” said Ingalsbe. Instead, the Guard will hold a training weekend at their home base. An upcoming marksmanship exercise for early August has been canceled as well as a preparation course, firearms training for soldiers who need to improve their marksmanship, and more.

The cancellations will extend beyond Nebraska to other states unless the National Guard Bureau is reimbursed $ 521 million for the cost of securing the Capitol by the end of May.

“If the funding isn’t sorted by August 1st, that list will grow,” said Wayne Hall, spokesman for the National Guard bureau.

The canceled exercises underscore the real ramifications of a dead end in funding Congress in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, which resulted in thousands of National Guards being stationed at the Capitol for several months. The US Capitol Police are also facing a funding crisis, and lawmakers have warned that there could be a vacation in August without additional funding.

Guard units prepare for the much more serious prospect of canceling entire drilling weekends and annual exercises as Guard leaders have begun to pull non-binding dollars to fill the funding gap.

“The Illinois National Guard may have to cancel August and September, cancel upcoming annual training events, take over a thousand federal civilian employees on leave, ground aircraft causing pilots to lose critical readiness ratings, cancel key military schools, cancel transports,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, the Illinois adjutant general at a media round table last week. Illinois hired more than 800 guardsmen to the Capitol Mission and another 3,000 to responding to Covid-19.

“It would punish the force that has worked extremely hard over the past two years to make sure the National Guard is always ready and always there when our nation in our community needs us,” Neely said.

Critical time

The risk of training being canceled comes at a critical time as forest fires are raging on the west coast and hurricane season is fast approaching on the east coast, two times when guardsmen are often called in for help in the event of a natural disaster.

Governors and local officials took the call this week and wrote letters to Senators and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking for the refund funding to be swiftly approved before the cancellation of exercise weekends affects the guard’s willingness to respond in an emergency.

In a letter to Pelosi and Senate Grants Committee Chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said that if Congress does not compensate the guard for protecting Capitol Hill after January 6, “the training schedule for the remainder of fiscal 2021 is in jeopardy.”

Cancellation of training “will affect readiness” from “delaying vocational and career schools” to “being less responsive” to responding to domestic emergencies, Burgum said in the letter.

Maryland National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Gowen also wrote a letter to Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, asking Congress to reimburse the Guard for funding our exercise and annual training times for the remainder of the fiscal year. ”

Maryland Governor Lary Hogan tweeted the letter Gowen sent Cardin on July 20, urging Congress to “take urgent action to prevent major disruptions to operations.”

Negotiations are ongoing

The Senate Grants Committee negotiated an additional funding package that would include funding for the National Guard and Capitol Police after the House of Representatives passed a $ 2 billion security package earlier this year.

Senate budget chairwoman Leahy unveiled an additional $ 3.7 billion funding proposal last week that would provide additional funding for both the Guard and the Capitol Police, as well as other matters such as promoting the Afghan Special visas for immigrants and granting funds to courts to increase their security after January 6.

But Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the panel, said Leahy’s package was too broad. He has proposed a tighter $ 1 billion package that includes funding for the Guard and Capitol Police. Shelby said he was open to funding the Afghan visa program, although he would be skeptical of any further issues.

Both Leahy and Shelby have been optimistic that the committee will reach an agreement before Congress leaves town for the August recess. “We haven’t reached an agreement yet, but I think we’re very close,” Shelby told reporters on Thursday. “But that’s still not there.”

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