FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2007
Kagen Fights Pentagon Proposal To Cut Pay For Wisconsin Guard Serving In Kosovo
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Congressman Steve Kagen is fighting for Wisconsin National Guard members to keep combat pay and other benefits they earn serving in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
Ninety-two members of the Guard’s 1st Battalion 147th Aviation Blackhawk helicopter unit are serving in Kosovo. A Department of Defense proposal to reclassify the mission in Kosovo as a “non-combat” mission would cost individual soldiers thousands of dollars, resulting in undue financial hardships for them and their families. The soldiers would lose combat pay as well as the federal payroll tax exemption afforded to soldiers serving in combat zones.
Congressman Kagen and fellow Congressman Tim Walz, who served in the Minnesota National Guard, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urging him to drop the proposal.
“With a strong show of opposition from Members of Congress the Pentagon will drop this idea – and we are organizing that opposition,” Kagen said.
The DOD proposal would affect more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers currently serving in Kosovo, in addition to 92 Wisconsin National Guardsmen assisting in peacekeeping operations.
The DOD proposal would consider Kosovo a non-combat mission despite the fact that troops face “rising tensions in the Balkans over Kosovo’s ongoing bid for independence and frequent U.S. missions that involve dangerous interdictions of smuggling rings, raids on armed extremist groups and encounters with improvised bombs,” the Washington Post reported recently.
“The Defense Department proposal will result in a pay cut and impose severe financial hardships on many of our National Guard soldiers and their families. This decision will be devastating for troop morale,” said Kagen.
The Washington Post reports that “top military officers in Europe have officially disagreed [with the proposal to remove combat status,] but they have been told the change could come as early as April 1.”
If the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo is reclassified, Wisconsin National Guard soldiers would face the following loss in combat benefits:
- $225 monthly combat pay
- Exemption from federal payroll taxes
- Free R&R flights home during their official leave periods
- Ability to apply for subsidized loans
- A possible loss of hazardous duty location pay