Asked specifically about whether defense leaders purposefully cut the deployments one day short of what would be required for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI bill, Esper declined to comment.
“I’m fully committed to supporting our National Guard members,” he said. “I’m not worried about the number of days. What I’m worried about is making sure we win the fight against coronavirus and we fully support the young men and women who are serving on the streets of America in the National Guard.”
Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a National Guardsman who previously deployed to Staten Island during the pandemic, slammed the decision to “intentionally” end the deployment before troops can receive benefits as “heartless.”
“In peace time we should never balance our budget on the backs of our soldiers, so why anyone would think this is okay to do in the middle of a wartime effort is beyond human comprehension,” he said in a statement. “This decision must be reversed not only because it is deeply unpatriotic, but also economically unsound and puts our gains against Covid-19 at risk for some short-term, foolish budgetary gimmick.”