As lawmakers loudly sparred in recent weeks about how to reimburse the National Guard half a billion dollars for protecting the Capitol this year, the Pentagon quietly offered to simply foot the bill by deferring “non-urgent” facilities repairs by a few months, CQ Roll Call has learned.
The Defense Department’s seemingly simple solution has barely been mentioned in the current debate. Some lawmakers do not want the military to have to foot the National Guard’s bill by redirecting money in its budgets, even if the Pentagon has suggested it can do so without adverse effect.
In a June 11 reprogramming request that has not been previously reported, the Defense Department said it could cover $521 million in Army National Guard and Air National Guard costs by merely putting off until later this year certain “lower-priority” and “non-urgent” repair projects in Army, Navy and Air Force facilities.
Debate over how to compensate the Guard for its unprecedented Capitol deployments has bedeviled Congress and triggered partisan spats — chiefly about what else besides new Guard money to put in a supplemental spending bill, not whether the Guard needs the additional half a billion dollars.
Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said last month that if the Guard is not reimbursed “in a timely manner,” then it would have “a very significant impact on National Guard readiness.” Lawmakers in both parties have echoed that plea in making the case for new appropriations.
At least three bills are pending, including one totaling $3.7 billion, that would fund the Guard and the Capitol Police and in some cases pay for other programs unrelated to security on the Hill. A fourth bill would appropriate just the $521 million.