In response to concerns from state governors, the White House this week announced plans to extend National Guard deployments for domestic coronavirus support missions through the end of the year, though with a reduction in federal funding for the work.
Under an executive memorandum issued late Monday evening, President Donald Trump said the extension in Guardsmen’s orders is designed to “continue to provide maximum support to states and territories as they make decisions about the responses required to address” the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“To date, activated National Guard forces around the country have provided critical support to governors as the governors work to address the needs of those populations within their respective states and territories especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, including those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care or congregate settings,” the memos state.
“Additionally, states and territories will need assistance in fighting COVID-19 hot spots as they emerge.”
About 30,000 guardsmen are currently deployed in support of state missions. Many of those operations started in March, just weeks after the start of the ongoing pandemic. In May, Trump extended the federal authorizations for the work until Aug. 21.
But earlier this week, officials from the National Governors Association urged Trump to again extend those orders, saying that support missions provided by the Guard troops will likely be needed “until a vaccine is available.”
The group said that with two-week quarantine periods mandated for guardsmen at the end of the orders, many current support services would end this week if the Aug. 21 date was not changed.
The new White House authorization calls for the Guard missions to continue through Dec. 31, 2020, but also outlines that the federal government will cover only 75 percent of the costs of most mobilizations. No reason was given for the reduction in funding, though the federal government does not typically pick up the entire cost for such activations.
In separate memos, Trump announced that two states — Texas and Florida — will continue to receive full funding for their Guard efforts. The states are among the hardest hit in the latest wave of coronavirus outbreaks.
Along with ensuring that living costs associated with the deployments are covered, the Title 32 authorizations for the guardsmen are important so those troops can qualify for certain medical, education and retirement benefits later.
More than 4.7 million Americans have contracted coronavirus in the last five months, and more than 156,000 have died from complications related to the illness.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.