Pentagon chief suspends reimbursement for enlistment bonuses

first_imgWASHINGTON — Facing a public outcry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to suspend its effort to seek repayments of enlistment bonuses given to thousands of California National Guard members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.Carter’s decision comes in the wake of angry reaction from congressional Republicans and Democrats who demanded he relieve the burden on Guard members following news reports that soldiers were being asked to repay debts that in some cases totaled more than $25,000. The announcement does not end the reimbursement process, but postpones collection efforts while the Pentagon and Congress look for a long-term solution.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama was pleased with the decision, but said it was important for the Pentagon “to follow through” by finding a long-term solution. Obama had warned the Defense Department earlier this week not to “nickel and dime” service members who were victims of wrongdoing by overzealous recruiters.In a statement issued during a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, Carter said efforts to collect reimbursement from Guard members should stop “as soon as is practical.” Carter said he has ordered the department to set up a streamlined process by Jan. 1 to help troops get relief from the repayment obligation, because the current program has moved too slowly.“This process has dragged on too long, for too many service members,” he said. “Too many cases have languished without action. That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers.”last_img read more