Sen. Warren Wants Answers on Promotion Delays of National Guard Service Members

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The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.

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WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Representatives Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), and Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), both members of the House Armed Services Committee and Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, and Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, requesting information on National Guard promotion delays and an update on the federal recognition process.

Senators Warren and Daines introduced legislation to address promotion delays, a modified version of that bill was included in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“We write today out of concern for the men and women of the National Guard who have experienced unacceptable delays to their well-earned promotions and request information regarding how these delays are being addressed and how the Army is implementing new authority granted to it,” wrote the lawmakers. 

Soldiers and airmen and women in the National Guard are unique in that their promotion or appointment to a higher rank must be recognized by both the state and the federal government. This requirement can cause significant delays as newly-promoted officers await federal recognition. The Guard is also unique because it conducts “unit vacancy promotions,” in which an officer is promoted into a specific open position at a higher rank. 

While a thorough review is important, the scrolling process has become redundant and overly bureaucratic. Current Army policy is to publish scrolls within 195 days of receipt, while the Air Force policy is 180 days. But when the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) conducted an informal survey of its membership in 2017, it found that nearly half of respondents reported that the time elapsed between when their state promotion order was published and the date of federal recognition was greater than 195 days, with many waiting over a year to receive recognition. 

As a result, delays in federal recognition can have significantly negative consequences for service members, including: not receiving commensurate pay and benefits for acting in more senior roles, delays impact time in grade, officers being evaluated in lesser positions than they are qualified to perform, or being passed up for additional responsibility, such as command when working hand-in-hand with active-duty counterparts on a federal mission.

The men and women of the National Guard have played an instrumental role in COVID-19 response and recovery – supporting testing and contracting tracing, distributing personal protective equipment, operating food banks, and more.

However, this pandemic has only exacerbated the promotion delays that have impacted officers of the National Guard. Junior officers are spending longer mobilizations and deployment under federal orders.

When under federal orders, it takes additional time for the National Guard to provide the home state the federal service time required to fulfill a time in rank promotion. With no end in sight to the use of the National Guard in a federal capacity, these promotion delays will only continue to worsen.

Senators Warren and Daines introduced the National Guard Promotion Accountability Act to address these delays. A modified version of that bill was included in the Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA) granting the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force the authority to allow a Guard officer’s date of rank to be back-dated, after federal recognition is granted, to the date at which his or her promotion was published by the state.

The lawmakers requested answers to their questions by no later than December 2, 2020. 

Text of Letter

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