As President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron try to drum up cash from European allies to bolster NATO in the face of an invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, American soldiers back here at home are sitting out training exercises because of a lack of cash.
Multiple reports claim the National Guard has a budget shortfall of $101 million, forcing units in Maryland, Wisconsin, Ohio, Delaware, Hawaii and Guam to postpone training exercises. Business Insider reported that exercises in Mississippi and Illinois would also be forced to cancel exercises.
They Dayton Daily News said the shortfall is due to fewer soldiers being deployed overseas and more soldiers being trained by the Guard.
“This year, some unusual and unforeseen circumstances contributed to higher-than-normal expenditure rates across the Guard,” Guard spokesman Capt. John D. Fesler told the Milwaukee Sun Sentinel.
To fill the funding shortfall, Congress would have to act to allocate new funds to the National Guard. If it doesn’t, the drill would be cancelled all together, according to the Baltimore Sun.
In an attempt to remedy the problem, the National Guard Bureau is submitting a request to Congress that would allow it to move money around in its budget to pay for the exercises. If that happens, training could be rescheduled.
Reservists in the National Guard played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said that every National Guard Unit in the country -- a total of roughly 300,000 soldiers -- had been deployed to the wars.
“You are fully engaged, to include fully burdened, with more than 600 Guardsmen killed and more than 5,000 wounded," Casey said. “It's a fundamentally different Guard, and because of that, it is a fundamentally different Army today, and we can't go back.”
Tens of thousands of troops are impacted by the cancellations. Each has to arrange their work and family schedule around the training. Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the Delaware Army National Guard’s top officer, told the Delaware New Journal that the disruption to the lives of those affected is what upset him the most.
“People plan their lives around their unit training assembly schedule," he said. "They and their families want some degree of predictability, and know what they're going to do and when they can plan events other than training.”
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