Short on cash, the Army National Guard is cutting back on drilling nationwide


Soldiers with the Ohio Army National Guard maneuver through a field during training at Camp Grayling in Michigan on Aug. 17.  (Photo by Spc. Seth LaCount/ Michigan National Guard)

The National Guard is short on cash, and it will cut into training this month for soldiers in the Army National Guard across the country.

The National Guard Bureau determined it is about $101 million short in its Army National Guard personnel account, said a spokesman, Capt. John Fesler. The shortfall applies through the end of fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30. The financial strain was caused by fewer guardsmen deploying overseas, where they are paid from a different Pentagon operations account, and higher than expected attendance at training earlier this year.

“A number of things are being done to mitigate the shortfall and minimize the impact to troops and readiness,” Fesler said. “Immediate actions include suspending travel, rescheduling drill, and identifying all end-of-year surplus funds while NGB seeks approval to reprogram other available year-end funds.”

The budget shortfall does not affect the Air National Guard, officials said. The news began to surface over the weekend as the National Guard in individual states reported that drilling for their troops would be postponed.

In Ohio, for example, Maj. Gen. Deborah A. Ashenhurst released a video saying that drilling for most guardsmen there would not be held until the last week of September. Units preparing to mobilize will still receive their training on time, but most would remain on the sidelines, she said.

“We’re very much aware that this action will be at best an inconvenience for all of you and will have varying degrees of economic impact across the force,” Ashenhurst said in the video. “We’re taking this action as a last resort.”

The Hawaii Army National Guard cancelled monthly training for 3,000 soldiers last weekend, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The Guard there will not receive $1 million it expected from the National Guard Bureau as result of the national shortfall.

In Maryland, about 3,900 guardsmen will be held back from training in September, saving about $1.5 million, The Baltimore Sun reported.

In Delaware, the National Guard cancelled training last weekend and attributed the budget shortfall nationally to accounting problems by the National Guard Bureau and the Guard in numerous other states. Pointedly, the top officer in the Delaware National Guard, Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, said that some states were asked to “make up for the sins of others,” according to the News Journal of Wilmington, Del.

“As a member of the Guard, and somebody who is always carrying the standard for the citizen-soldier, I’d be hard-pressed to say that I want to see my National Guard take on the stigma of not being able to meet its commitment,” Vavala told the News Journal.

Maj. Gen. Benny M. Paulino, the top officer in the Guam National Guard, said it is “waiting game” right now to see when more funding becomes available, according to the Pacific Daily News. It cancelled training for guardsmen from Sept. 5-7, but hopes to return to drilling by the end of the month.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.

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Dan Lamothe · September 3, 2014