Members of the National Guard remain in limbo during the shutdown, with their weekend drills canceled and the funding necessary for training exercises left unapproved.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s Monday announcement that the Pay Our Military Act allows many civilian employees of the Defense Department to return to work, and also guarantees payment for the military, does not help most National Guardsmen.
As long as the government shutdown persists, the majority of guardsmen will not get paid or trained.
“There will not be any weekend drills until the shutdown is over,” National Guard Association spokesman John Goheen said in a telephone interview. “The longer it goes on the more it degrades readiness.
“They generally get paid at the end of the month. In this difficult economy, some people have multiple jobs, and the National Guard is one of them,” Goheen said.
Guardsmen’s situations depend on their categories, Goheen said. For example, dual status technicians work full time on their National Guard duties and are receiving paychecks. However traditional members of the Guard, who drill on weekends, are not being paid. Those are “the only people that are still out,” Goheen said.
According to the Pentagon, the majority of the National Guard’s 465,000 members are traditional Guardsmen who must participate in the basic requirements of one weekend drill a month and two weeks a year of annual training.
The situation has some officers concerned.
“Throughout the year you have certain time frames to do certain types of training,” said Master Sgt. Paul Wade of the California Army National Guard. “In October, the new fiscal year starts so physical fitness tests, weapons qualifications, medical checkups — those didn’t happen.”
Many states, such as California, have been unable to carry out their weekend drills. But others have been able to tap state funds to continue National Guard exercises.
“They do border patrol, they do anti-drug trafficking, they do the flood relief that’s going on in Colorado, so you can see there are a number of functions that they perform,” National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Officer Maj. Jonathan Craig said.
The traditional Guardsman, participating in uniformed weekend activities but usually holding a civilian job during the week, faces problems unique to this branch of service.
“People who had already turned in notices to their employers saying that would be in school will have to reschedule with their employers,” said Miranda Summers-Lowe, acting public affairs officer for the District of Columbia National Guard.