National Guard state commanders warned Friday of damaging cuts in training if Congress doesn’t reimburse $521 million they spent securing the Capitol after the Jan. 6 riot.
If lawmakers fail to act before next month, the Guard will be forced to scrap scheduled training in August and September, its busiest time for drills. The cancellations could affect the reserve force’s ability to deploy to disasters, field an upcoming southern border mission, and pay troops, Guard leaders from Indiana, Illinois, and Massachusetts said during a press briefing.
“Unfortunately, we are at this point now where we have to start looking at what it will take to shut the National Guard down to recover these funds that, at the end of the year, will just not be in our coffers,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, the adjutant general for Illinois.
The House narrowly passed a $1.9 billion bill (H.R. 3237) in May that would provide Capitol security upgrades and reimburse the National Guard for securing the grounds until May, after protesters supporting former President Donald Trump broke in to disrupt the 2020 electoral vote count.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) this week introduced a supplemental spending bill (S. 2311) that would include $521 million to pay for National Guard deployment to the Capitol on Jan. 6. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hasn’t indicated when he will bring the measure up for consideration.
Republicans have opposed the overall scope of the Democrats’ Capitol security spending measures. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter this week urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) to cancel recesses or “Committee Work Weeks” until a clean supplemental to fund the National Guard is signed into law.
After the riot, states sent Guard troops to set up fencing and man checkpoints, while the National Guard Bureau pulled funding from several accounts and sent it to states to bankroll those forces until the mission ended in May.
Now, the bureau has notified state adjutant generals it plans to reclaim that money. Neely said Illinois committed 800 troops and could be forced to repay $31 million, and that other states are facing the same difficulties.
The state may cancel August and September drill weekend for 13,000 soldiers and airmen; cancel upcoming annual training events; furlough over 1,000 federal civilian employees; ground aircraft, which will cause pilots to lose critical flight readiness ratings; cancel essential military schools; and halt transportation, Neely said.
The cancellation of training could also hamper a yearslong Guard mission on the southern U.S. border that was recently extended by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Indiana Guard companies, including military police and an aviation detachment, are scheduled to start training over the next two months for a deployment to the border in October and November, said Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, that state’s adjutant general.
“Our inability to conduct that pre-planned training is going to hinder our ability to get them on the border in a timely manner,” Lyles said.
The Capitol security mission came on top of multiple missions asked of the Guard over the last few years, including border security amid an influx of immigration, assistance with the Covid pandemic, and response to natural disasters such as forest fires and hurricanes.
“Without that training, our readiness will start slipping away,” said Maj. Gen. John Driscoll, land component commander of the Massachusetts National Guard.
With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick and Nancy Ognanovich
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