Nebraska the First State to Slow Down National Guard Operations In the Face of Budget Crunch

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National Guard soldier stands guard at Capitol.
A U.S. soldier with the Oklahoma National Guard stands watch along a perimeter fence near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2021. (Sgt. Anthony Jones/U.S. Army National Guard)

The Nebraska National Guard is the first state to start scaling back activities to save funds as Congress has less than a week left to come up with a solution to pay the $520 million tab for the months spent keeping lawmakers safe after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. 

States across the country are bracing to cancel National Guard training and ground aircraft until October due to the budget shortfall.

Nebraska hasn’t canceled its August or September drills yet, but is suspending ancillary things in an attempt to keep its head above water in case Congress can’t pass a bill by the Sunday deadline, Military.com has learned.

Nebraska canceled a company commander and first sergeant pre-command course, a 40-hour block of instruction designed to prepare leaders for command. A marksmanship and endurance competition also were canceled.

Read Next: How Much Discrimination Did Guardsmen Face from Civilian Employers During the Pandemic?

Most units tend to conduct their annual weapon proficiency tests in October to mark the start of the new fiscal year. Nebraska also terminated a three-day, small arms school for soldiers who struggle with their marksmanship. None of these canceled events will be rescheduled even if funding comes through, according to Wayne Hall, a National Guard spokesperson. 

Military.com reached out to a dozen states to ask whether they have begun to curtail training like Nebraska. This would be the first time in nearly a decade the Guard would be shut down. In 2013, a government shutdown suspended at least one month of training for many guardsmen. 

No other states have canceled any training, but are scrambling to figure out what to cut to make it to October. They warned that if Congress doesn’t figure the money out, it would have massive repercussions for the force. Beyond concerns over canceled training’s impact on the Guard’s ability to deploy at home and abroad, guardsmen also will lose out on two months of pay. For a specialist, the Army’s most common rank, that means losing out on about $700. 

“If funds are not made available, mitigation efforts have been put in place to ensure each soldier and airman has met their minimum training requirements for the year,” Ohio National Guard spokesperson Stephanie Beougher told Military.com in a statement. “These measures will prioritize and fund mission critical elements of our operations, but will result in an overall erosion to training and skills at the individual and team level efficiency.” 

Some soldiers will be short on what is considered a “good year.” To be eligible for retirement benefits after 20 years of service, troops have to serve a certain amount of time each year. Missing out on two months of drills could put some troops at risk of effectively having a wasted year. 

Two senior National Guard leaders with direct knowledge of their state’s plans told Military.com on the condition of anonymity that units are considering having just a handful of troops drill in September and August, which will be decided on who needs more time for a so-called “good year” or their paychecks. 

The House in May passed a $1.9 billion bill to reimburse the Guard and provide extra money for federal law enforcement at the Capitol with no Republican votes. 

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are bickering over the size and scope of their own bill, with the GOP aiming for a narrow bill mostly for the Guard while Democrats argue the must-pass bill is an opportunity to advance other items.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., introduced a $632.9 million bill to fully fund the Guard and recoup additional costs Capitol Police accrued related to the Jan. 6 Capitol assault. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has a $3.7 billion plan that includes money for the Guard to avoid a shutdown, police and boosting support for Afghanistan refugees and more funding for pandemic-related resources. 

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: National Guard Two Weeks from Collapse — Stalling Promotions, Gutting Training, Canceling Drills, Leaders Warn

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