The Department of Defense has received requests from the governors of 31 states to extend federal National Guard orders. More than 32,000 Guard troops are currently domestically activated -- many of them in COVID-19 prevention capacities and others supporting civil unrest operations.
The request for extension was sent on July 15, Stars and Stripes first reported. Some states have requested orders extend through the fall -- others have asked that their Guard troops remain activated through the end of the year. Currently, Title 32 orders are scheduled to end on August 21.
If the orders are not extended, states become responsible for funding for activated troops. This often means lower pay and fewer benefits for those activated. Under federally mandated Title 32 orders, troops receive federal pay and benefits including TRICARE and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
At the peak of this year’s activations, 75,000 Guard troops were activated domestically against COVID-19 and in civil unrest capacities. This rate of activations far exceeded the previous record for domestic Guard operations in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina.
National Guard benefits came under scrutiny at the end of June when Politico first reported that federal activations for thousands of Guard troops ended one day short of the required 90 days of service required to accrue certain benefits. After backlash, President Donald Trump extended those orders.
"The fight against coronavirus is not over and National Guard resources will continue to be essential to support state and local communities overwhelmed by the pandemic in the months ahead," Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper requesting extended benefits for Guard troops activated against COVID-19. “Our nation will come out of this crisis in no small part because of the work of the men and women who serve our country every day.”