Army Times | No Friends in High Places

Monday, 10 November 2003 23:44 by: Anonymous

     No Friends in High Places
     Army Times | Editorial

     Monday 10 November 2003

     You not only have a former Guardsman in the White House, you have a friend, President Bush declared during a 2001 visit to an Air National Guard base.

     But for 120,000 Guard and reserve members employed by the federal government, friendship seems to have its limits.

     The Bush administration last week persuaded Republican lawmakers to vote down a provision in the $87 billion supplemental funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan operations that would have given financial relief to federally employed reservists called to active duty.

     The provision, sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would have reimbursed those federal employees for any pay cut they suffer when mobilized. It was defeated on a party-line vote Oct. 28 during a House-Senate conference.

     About 14,000 reservists are now mobilized to assist with operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Durbin estimates that 23,000 federal employees in all would benefit from this sensible measure, at a relatively inexpensive cost of $80 million.

     The federal government the largest single employer of reservists has encouraged private employers to make up differences when mobilized reservists take pay cuts compared to their civilian wages.

     Indeed, about 200 companies and 50 state and local governments do just that earning them high praise from, among others, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wrote a September 2002 open letter of appreciation to employers that support their reservist workers.

     During this period of mobilization, many of you did more than was required by law by voluntarily offering continued benefits, pay differentials, and additional, creative forms of family support which made the period of separation so much easier to bear, Rumsfeld said.

     Yet again, Bush administration officials and Republican leaders in Congress have shown how cheap talk can be.

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