Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that National Guard deployments to help with the coronavirus response should be extended beyond the scheduled end date on June 24 if necessary.
“If they have a valid mission assignment that’s verified by FEMA, my view is we should extend those tours of duty,” Esper said told NBC’s “Today” Show. “Our Guard has done a tremendous job.”
Politico reported earlier this week that federal officials plan to end the orders for state Guard deployments on June 24, which is one day before the cutoff for the 46,000 Guards members to qualify for GI Bill benefits. Esper declined to comment when asked if defense leaders chose that date on purpose.
“I’m fully committed to supporting our National Guard members,” he said. “I’m not worried about the number of days. What I’m worried about is making sure we win the fight against coronavirus and we fully support the young men and women who are serving on the streets of America in the National Guard.”
Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., who was deployed with the National Guard to Staten Island during the coronavirus pandemic, told Politico in a statement that officials “intentionally” made the “heartless” decision to end the deployment before benefits were available.
“In peace time we should never balance our budget on the backs of our soldiers, so why anyone would think this is okay to do in the middle of a wartime effort is beyond human comprehension,” he said. “This decision must be reversed not only because it is deeply unpatriotic, but also economically unsound and puts our gains against Covid-19 at risk for some short-term, foolish budgetary gimmick."
Theodore Bunker ✉
Theodore Bunker, a Newsmax writer, has more than a decade covering news, media, and politics.
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