The National Guard is facing a severe funding shortage after its months-long mission securing the U.S. Capitol after the Jan. 6 pro-Trump assault. If the force isn't reimbursed $520 million soon, it will have to cancel training events, schools and weekend drills, and even ground aircraft, Military.com has learned.
According to a memo from the Guard to Congress and obtained by Military.com, funding to recuperate the costs the force spent from Jan. to May on Capitol security needs to be assured by July 1. If not, commanders in all 54 U.S. states and territories will be notified to brace for halted operations and the potential cancellation of drills in August and September.
Annual training in July could be shortened or canceled, the memo states. Come Aug. 1, all events and schools will be halted, it adds. If that happens, the National Guard Bureau estimates "thousands'' of soldiers will lose out on enough service time this year to affect their retirement.
On top of unit-level training being canceled, the memo states that 2,000 "functional and occupational" schools will be suspended. This would likely mean courses troops take to reclass into new jobs and schools necessary for promotion, which could be a serious blow to career progression for officers and enlisted members. The memo said that school slots will be shifted to 2022, but noted "funds are not projected to be available."
Pentagon leaders warned Congress its failure to act will have serious consequences for the Guard.
"It will impact their ability in the near term to be able to train and adequately prepare the Guard for its future, for its current responsibilities," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
It is unclear how full-time troops will be impacted and whether they would be sent home temporarily; the National Guard Bureau wasn't able to immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Army Guard will also cease all ground vehicle maintenance activities and halt all vehicle movement until sometime in fiscal 2022, which starts in October. The Guard estimates stalled training will set the force back "8-12 months" on vehicle readiness. Affected areas could range from training for gunnery, to qualifying soldiers to maintain and operate vehicles.
All Army Guard rotary wing operations are expected to be severely impacted. The Guard told Congress it will restrict flying and maintenance on aircraft. Aviation units "are unlikely to recover for 10-14 months," according to the memo.
The Air National Guard will cut back two weeks worth of flying, which could have a vast impact on both the force's ability to fly and pilots to maintain certifications. This would compound the Air Guard's efforts to recover from the pandemic's impact on training and reduced flying time.
Last week, Military.com reported that the National Guard will eliminate retention bonuses on July 1, the same day commanders will be warned to start reining in training. A spokesman for the Guard said the two issues are separate; the Guard already has far exceeded its retention goals this year and will not hand out bonuses for continuing service until sometime next year.
The House passed a bill to reimburse the National Guard and bolster Capitol security in May. The Senate is still crafting its own bil, but it is unclear how long it will take to pass its legislation once finished.
One lawmaker pointed out that the Capitol Police will also run into funding issues soon.
"Without Senate action, the National Guard, which provided protection to the Capitol after the attack of January 6, will have to begin cutting training in August," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. "Senate Republicans have refused to join bipartisan negotiations to address these urgent security needs, and now the Capitol Police risks running out of funding this summer."
A spokesperson for Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the total reimbursement the Guard is requesting.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.