National Guard members facing contract meal challenges and out-of-pocket costs

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Today, Representatives Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), Tim Ryan (OH-13) and Steven Palazzo (MS-04) sent a letter to Major General Timothy P. Williams, President of the Adjutants General Association, encouraging local commanders to allow members of the National Guard deployed to the nation’s capital to be reimbursed for missed meals.

In response to the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, more than 27,000 members of the National Guard – including nearly 1,000 Illinoisans – have courageously responded to protect the Capitol building and preserve our democracy. However, because of a combination of food service limitations due to the pandemic, logistic challenges of feeding a large force, odd shift times and geographical separation, some members of the Guard have incurred out-of-pocket costs because of the lack of adequate contract meal service.

“We know staying prepared for your many missions is difficult, but your recent response to the National Capitol Region demonstrated in action the National Guard’s motto: ‘Always Ready, Always There,’” the members wrote.

“However, some National Guard members faced significant delays in receiving meals or served on shifts that did not align with the appropriate meal type or time. In these instances, many Soldiers and Airmen chose instead to purchase food at their own expense here in Washington, D.C.,” the members continued. “This is a concern for those that have already completed their mission and returned home as well as those troops that remain on station. We encourage the Adjutants General Association of the United States to address this issue within each of your states by educating and empowering local commanders to nominate members for missed meal reimbursement or other similar reimbursement programs in your state.”

You can read full text of the letter here and below:

Dear Major General Williams:

First and foremost, we would like to express our deep gratitude to Virginia, as well as the 53 other states, territories and the District of Columbia, for quickly and effectively mobilizing our National Guard to protect the Capitol, preserving the democracy that we cherish.  We know staying prepared for your many missions is difficult, but your recent response to the National Capital Region demonstrated in action the National Guard’s motto: “Always Ready, Always There.”

The logistical feat of moving, housing and feeding nearly 27,000 Citizen Airmen and Soldiers at the peak of the civil disturbance mission in D.C. was enormous, and the National Guard unequivocally tackled the challenge. However, we have concerns that, due to the enormity of the task and the speed at which the National Guard was deployed, some Guard members may have lacked adequate access to meals. Specifically, contract food services were used in lieu of per diem allotments for meals.  We are not questioning this choice; providing contract food service was the only realistic solution to feed such a large and geographically dispersed force. However, some National Guard members faced significant delays in receiving meals or served on shifts that did not align with the appropriate meal type or time. In these instances, many Soldiers and Airmen chose instead to purchase food at their own expense here in Washington, D.C..

This is a concern for those that have already completed their mission and returned home as well as those troops that remain on station.  We encourage the Adjutants General Association of the United States to address this issue within each of your states by educating and empowering local commanders to nominate members for missed meal reimbursement or other similar reimbursement programs that may vary by state.  We look forward to an ongoing and productive relationship with you and all the Adjutants General in support of the National Guard.

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Release from Congressman Steven Palazzo.