Back Pay for Promotion Delays? Maybe

NGAUS Washington Report
April 17, 2018

Army Secretary Mark Esper says he’s open to providing back pay to National Guard members who perform work of a higher rank while waiting for federal recognition of their promotion to that rank.

He was responding to a question from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

“Senator, I think that’s a fair approach to it,” he said. “I would want to make sure to talk to National Guard to make sure that it’s fair to them and we all understand what the implications are. But I think, in principle, that’s fair.”

Guard officers, especially those in company grades, are frustrated by long waits between approval of their promotions by their states or territories and the Pentagon recognizing them. Nearly half of the 3,000 Guard officers who responded to a NGAUS survey late last year said they waited more than 196 days between the two events.

Often, the officer is assigned to a duty appropriate for the next rank following the state promotion, but the pay lags until the federal process is completed.

In the exchange that can be viewed on the NGAUS Facebook page(link is external), Warren responded to Esper’s answer, “Good, I’m glad to hear that. . . . And I think it’s just plain wrong when National Guard officers earn their promotions, serve at a higher level of responsibility for months, and then don’t get that rank’s pay while they are waiting for federal recognition.”

Earlier, Esper said the delays “are too long and its unacceptable.” He said more manpower has been thrown at the issue and greater automation is being considered.

“I think there are ways we can reduce the time,” he said. “There’s anywhere between 30 to 45 days added on to determine if they have exhibited exemplary behavior.”

He said congressional action may be required to make some adjustments to the process.

Before leaving the topic, Warren said, “We’ve got to find a way to speed this up or else, I worry, that this is going to do a lot of damage to morale.”

Esper replied, “I do, too, Senator.”