Illinois National Guard members may be seeing significant cutbacks in the next few months as they await the federal government to pay them back for a significant mission.
Over 800 guard members from the state were a part of the deployment sent to protect the nation’s Capitol after the January 6th riot until the end of May. The response to the Capitol by all National Guard units cost the National Guard Bureau over a half billion dollars, creating a major budget deficit.
Illinois National Guard Adjutant General Richard Neely says that if the budget deficit isn’t filled by September 30th, the Illinois National Guard will be in the hole $31 million: “Now, the National Guard Bureau is looking for ways to offset the shortages, like going back to states and pulling back unspent dollars, unobligated (as we sometimes refer to them) dollars, which go to pay our soldiers and airmen for the last couple months of the year for both our traditional, weekend force that comes in for both the August and September drill weekends, as well as there is a potential for it affecting some of our full-time staff having to be furloughed and that to offset this expense.”
Neely says he’s not quite sure what this means for the National Guard Armory in Beardstown or the air wing at Capitol Airport in Springfield, but painful cuts are likely coming if an answer isn’t given by Congress. He says drill weekends could be put on hold eventually and crucial training that’s been pushed to the end of the year could be canceled. Neely says it’s a tragic turn of events because of the National Guard’s response to the state over the last year: “For me, I see it as a tragedy, given the significant positive impact that our Guard’s men and women had throughout the state. They stepped up to every mission whether they got called up for the insurrection or if they got called in for support to COVID [response] whether it was testing missions or vaccination missions – they answered every call on top of the thousands deployed overseas last year. This is really very disappointing that we now we turned to them and have to have budgets made up based on their salary. I’m really hopeful that the Congress can find a way forward with this budget so we can get this resolved before the first of August.”
Currently, 17th District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos has joined 69 other bipartisan lawmakers in hopes of pushing forward a reimbursement bill to help get the issue resolved.
Governor J.B. Pritzker issued the following statement yesterday asking for a resolution: “Even as the events of January 6th were still unfolding, heroes from across the nation fearlessly mobilized in defense of their country, and every day that our debts to them go unpaid is an insult to their service. Congress needs to act with urgency to not only protect the integrity of our National Guard but to do everything possible to prevent another January 6th from ever happening again. Here in Illinois, our Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen have sacrificed so much over the last 18 months, leaving their homes and families, civilian jobs and universities, dropping their plans and putting their lives on hold – all to respond to the needs of our state and nation. This is about readiness and about taking care of our soldiers and airmen, but even more so, it’s about honor. I urge Congress to act quickly on behalf of the safety, security, and dignity of all Americans.”
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin urged Senate Republicans to support an emergency supplemental appropriations bill, introduced by Democrat Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont that would provide $3.7 billion for funding costs incurred on the Capitol complex from January 6th as well as other Department of Defense costs over the last 6 months: “We have a special security supplemental appropriation…which appropriates the funds to pay the National Guard units who left their families and came here to protect us, to pay the Capitol Police for the expenses they incurred on January 6, to fortify this Capitol against any future insurrectionist mob. And that supplemental appropriation bill, which should have been passed routinely weeks ago, is still languishing for lack of agreement on the Republican side. If you want to be respectful of law enforcement, whether they are men and women in uniform and police units or National Guard, wouldn’t you pay them for the services they rendered to protect this Capitol and to protect the United States of America?”
The bill passed the U.S. House along party lines back in May.