Update: The Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, just confirmed the Pentagon will not be demanding the return of cash bonuses. I applaud them in making the right and moral decision in this case.
Over the last several days it’s come to light about the state of California requiring National Guard service members being required to pay back bonuses after they were activated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Almost 10,000 National Guardsmen are being required to pay back bonuses of at least $15,000. But get this, it gets better, they (the State of California, and Department of Defense) want interest added to it.
So how much did the bonuses add up to? According to several reports the amount is about $20 million. The bonuses were paid to entice people to enlist in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A 2013 Inspector General’s report deemed them too excessive. Are you kidding me!?
What type of message does this send to people who are considering enlisting in the armed forces? Or worse, what will this do to families who can’t afford to repay back the bonuses with interest (that could have easily climbed to over $20,000)? Tax liens, credit woes and a multitude of other problems will already exacerbate many service members’ financial hardships. Perhaps that’s why a recenet study finds national guard personnel are committing suicide
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was asked about this and responded with, “the issue is complex and is being handled by the deputy secretary of defense, Robert Work.” He did not say how the problem may be resolved though.
Overall the topic has drawn bi-partisan anger on both sides of the aisle, and rightfully so, with lawmakers saying it is “disgraceful” and “insulting.” Ash Carter’s immediate and unhesitating response should have been the DoD would waive this ridiculous request. After all he does have the authority to do so.
I think that given the size of the DoD budget and how much wasteful spending goes on at the Department of Defense it can afford to waive $20 million paid in blood by our nations warfighters.