JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi Army National Guard officials say a federal budget shortfall is forcing it to postpone weekend drills to late September with the hope that funding will become available later.
Spokesman Tim Powell says that Mississippi, like many other states, has called off training because of the National Guard Bureau is $101 million over budget due to higher-than-normal spending. Powell says the Mississippi guard hopes that money can be shifted from other accounts to allow for training later this month.
Decisions to postpone or cancel drills were being made by state Guard leaders. Some, including Alaska, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont, planned to go ahead as scheduled.
“The governor has been in contact with Adjutant General Leon Collins and Mississippi’s congressional delegation regarding the postponement of the Mississippi National Guard exercises,” Nicole Webb, spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Bryant, told WJTV-TV. “They are working together to ensure federal budget shortfalls do not prevent our 9,000 guardsmen from completed planned exercises this month, and receiving the compensation they are due.”
Among reasons for the shortfall are fewer Guard deployments overseas that are funded separately, meaning that money must come out of the regular guard budget. Also a problem is higher-than-expected attendance for training paid by the Guard.
Mississippi has about 9,800 Army Guard members, of whom 9,000 are part-time. Those part-time members get paid for readiness training, earning hundreds of dollars for a weekend of drills depending on their rank. Powell said a private first class makes $269 a month, while a sergeant first class makes $431 a month and a captain makes $682 a month.
The shortfall does not affect the Air National Guard.
The Guard is a reserve armed force and can be activated by the president for U.S. military action or called out by the governor to help with natural disasters or civil unrest. Mississippi Guard members have frequently been deployed overseas in the last decade.