Soldiers stand at parade rest as the Delaware Army National Guard hosts a welcome home ceremony at the Army Aviation Support Facility in New Castle, Del. / Suchat Pederson, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
Training for tens of thousands of Army National Guard soldiers will be canceled this month as the reserve component hits a $101 million budget shortfall in the final weeks of this fiscal year.
Army National Guard officials in Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Hawaii and Guam are notifying reservists that previously planned weekend drills for September are being called off, said Air Force Capt John Fesler, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.
The shortfall stems in part from unexpectedly high costs related to training personnel. Specifically, fewer mobilizations for overseas deployments this year resulted in more guardsman having time to attend career-specific technical training schools at home, Fesler said.
To fix the problem, the National Guard Bureau is submitting a reprogramming request to Congress, in effect asking for permission to move existing money from one account to another. If lawmakers grant the request, some training drills may be reinstated, Fesler said.
Until then, Guard officials have suspended unnecessary travel and are also asking some states to give back unneeded funds to help the Guard cover costs elsewhere until the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1, Fesler said.
One of those is the Delaware National Guard, which is returning $450,000 -- the amount it would have spent on September's weekend training.
Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the top officer of the Delaware Guard, said he isn't happy about the situation.
"I'm very disturbed by it, because it affects the lives of my soldiers," Vavala said. "I'm extremely upset that this has taken place."
In addition to the loss of income, training and the impact on career development, Vavala said a training hiatus hurts because of the impact on family life.
"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."
The budget crunch is not affecting the Air National Guard.
Contributing: William H. McMichael of The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
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