AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Military Department said this week that lack of reimbursement will soon leave Texas National Guardsmen without pay for the rest of the federal fiscal year.
When demonstrations outside the U.S. Capitol turned violent on Jan. 6, the National Guard deployed more than 26,000 soldiers and airmen in the following days, including 1,000 Texas troops. Now, military leaders are worried about when legislation will be passed in Congress to get the $521 million they’re owed back.
In a July 26 letter to key Congressional budget writers, leaders within the Adjutants General Association, including Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris, shared a “collective concern” regarding the lack of reimbursement for the Guard’s response after January 6, when demonstrations outside the U.S. Capitol turned violent.
“It is merely days before Congress recesses for the month of August, and yet seemingly there is no movement on any of the proposed legislation to reimburse the National Guard for the costs incurred to ensure a peaceful and safe transition of our government,” the letter, led by Nebraska’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, stated.
The Texas Army National Guard has already canceled its monthly weekend training exercises and yearly training for August and September as a result of the looming budgetary shortfall, state military officials confirmed.
Most important, Norris says, is the personal financial impact the delay could have for soldiers.
“Now, these soldiers will go without pay for two months and will incur a debt for federal Guard-furnished benefit premiums such as Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance and Tricare Reserve Select,” Norris added. She said soldiers may also lose retirement points which would cause the last year of training fail to count on their service record.
Norris explained that in addition to the January deployment to Capitol Hill, Texas Guardsmen have been on the front lines of state COVID-19 response, civil disturbance operations, border response and other state and federal missions.
“We have the most experienced force the Texas Guard has ever seen,” Norris stated. “The ability to retain this experience and support our soldiers is directly affected by these budget shortfalls. We need a solution.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said the money should have been returned to states already.
“Without the great service of our National Guard, our country could not have enjoyed the inauguration that we have,” The Central Texas Congressman explained, expressing his belief that the expenses were justified.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, whose district spans from western San Antonio to east of El Paso and stretches along the southern border, said the message Congress should be sending to troops is “we have your back.”
“Part of ‘We having your back,’ means… the federal government reimbursing the states for those expenses,” he explained. “I think that’s critical.”
“The key to it all is to ensure that our National Guard is strong and healthy and part of that is making sure that they have the resources in order to tackle the next problem sets, whether that’s the pandemic— which we’re seeing continuing to grow, with these different variants — or storms, or other natural disasters that may come our way,” Gonzales mentioned.
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he supports the reimbursement plan and expects to vote on a funding measure in the senate “soon.” A request for comment from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was not returned Tuesday afternoon.
A request for public information from Texas Military Department, filed in January, inquiring about how much money Texas spent on the deployment was not yet fulfilled as of July 27. A member of the agency’s open records division said an answer should be available by July 30. An agency spokesperson declined an interview request, citing the situation is “changing,” and “a deal could be reach [sic] soon.”
State-funded missions including border deployments as part of Operation Lone Star, in conjunction with the Texas Department of Public Safety, are not expected to be affected, the Texas Military Department said.
Graphic artist Jeffrey Wright contributed to this report.