Senate Supports ATG Retirement Benefits
Defense Appropriations Bill includes millions for Alaska projects
A final resolution of the restoration of retirement benefits for about two dozen Alaska Territorial Guard members who defended Alaska during World War II is imminent as a result of Senate action Oct. 6 and expected developments later this week, according to Sen. Mark Begich.
On Oct. 6 the Senate approved, by a 93-7 vote, the $636 billion Defense Appropriations bill for the coming year that includes a provision to restore the retirement benefits to the Guardsmen who served before Alaska became a state. That provision was inserted by Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
As early as Oct. 7, the final version of a separate National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2010 is expected to be approved by a Senate-House conference committee, on which Begich serves as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That bill, which needs only a final Senate and House vote, is expected to include a permanent fix for the Territorial Guard retirement pay issue.
"To counter Japanese aggression against the territory of Alaska during World War II, a group of Alaskan Natives voluntarily formed the Alaska Territorial Guard," Begich said. "These brave men engaged in direct combat with the enemy in protecting all of Alaska. It's the least we can do to recognize their enormous sacrifice by awarding them modest retirement benefits in the twilight of their lives."
After World War II, the ATG received no recognition for their service, and it wasn't until 2000 that Congress passed a law issuing discharge certificates to those who served in the ATG and counted their service toward retirement credit. Twenty-six former members of the ATG finally began receiving the well-earned pension from the government. Those payments stopped in January of this year with the new DOD ruling.
Late last month, the administration objected to the payment of the benefits, saying it set a poor precedent for future potential payments for other groups of servicemen.
Recognizing the importance of Alaska's strategic military location and role in the defense of our nation, the U.S. Senate today approved funding for a number of Alaska projects supported by Sen. Mark Begich on behalf of Alaskans.
In addition to the Territorial Guard provision, $50 million was included for the ground based interceptor production line to prevent a production line break. These interceptors are deployed as part of the missile defense system at Alaska's Fort Greely.
"Investments in our military and a strong, capable fighting force are some of the best investments we can make right now," Sen. Begich said. "As we ask our servicemen and women to do more every day, we owe it to them to provide the services and equipment they need to safely and effectively get the job done."
Alaska projects funded in the bill and supported by Sen. Begich include:
$3 million - Alaska National Guard Counterdrug Program
$2 million - Future Tactical Truck Carbon Composite Shelter
& Retrofit of Current Vehicle Shelters
$1.7 million - Flight/Hangar Deck Cleaner
$1.5 million - Auto Scan Under Vehicle Inspections (UVIS)
$1 million - Expandable Rigid Wall Composite Shelter
$500,000 - Permafrost Tunnel
The Senate Defense Appropriations Bill is still subject to a conference committee between the Senate and House. The House Defense Appropriations Bill does not contain language pertinent to ATG funding. Any differences worked out between the House and Senate must then be approved in final form by each body.