General says Georgia National Guard faces ‘draconian’ cuts if Congress fails to act

Greg Bluestein

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia National Guard is preparing to cancel training events and make “draconian” cuts if Congress doesn’t meet a weekend deadline to reimburse military units across the nation for securing the Capitol in the months after the deadly Jan. 6 attacks, Maj. Gen. Tom Carden said in an interview.

The state Guard faces a roughly $8.5 million budget shortfall after sending more than 1,200 soldiers to the Capitol for roughly two weeks in the wake of the attacks, which were led by a pro- Donald Trump mob that sought to prevent Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Congress appears to have struck a deal to rush roughly $521 million to the National Guard to reimburse Georgia and other states, sparing them budget cuts that would be enacted in August. But Carden said he’s planned cuts if the deal unravels.

“These are the same men and women who patrolled the streets of Atlanta during the summer, the same men and women who wiped down doorknobs in nursing homes, worked in food banks and served in Iraq,” the adjutant general said.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them. And the last thing I want to do is to have to implement austerity measures that will make them less safe on the battlefields of tomorrow.”

Georgia deployed 1,285 members of the Guard to Washington to secure the Capitol at the military command’s request, up from the 62 troops the unit planned to send. After that detachment of soldiers returned home, a smaller deployment of about 200 troops was stationed at the Capitol for a month.

Senate appropriators announced a bipartisan deal this week to compensate Georgia and other Guard units for the costs, as well as finance security improvements for the Capitol complex and boost Afghan refugee assistance efforts. The measure is expected to reach a vote on Friday.

“We believe there’s a better than average chance it’s resolved by Friday and we won’t be in a position to rely on draconian fiscal measures,” said Carden. “It’s not a surprise to me, or to the Congress or anybody in the National Guard.”

If the compromise falls apart, the adjutant general said he’d be forced to cancel drills, make cuts to the Guard’s temporary workforce and scuttle other discretionary training. He said he’s hoping the cuts don’t create “unnecessary hardships” but warned there could be consequences.

“We’ve got 43 faces on the Memorial Wall,” Carden said, referring to the plaques at the Clay National Guard Center honoring the state Guard troopers who have died supporting combat operations since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“My job is to make sure a 44th face isn’t on that wall. And if we’re not training them, I’m not living up to my promise to protect them.”


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