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Murkowski Disappointed Over Obama Administration’s Opposition to Providing Retirement Benefits to Alaska Territorial Guard Members


WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sept. 25 issued the following statement in response to President Obama's Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) regarding the Fiscal Year 2010 Senate Defense Appropriations bill. The administration objects to language in the bill, included by Murkowski and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, that would reinstate retirement benefits to members of the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG) for their service during World War II. The Senate bill would restore military retirement benefits to approximately 26 Alaska Territorial Guard members whose service in the ATG was considered active duty service until the Defense Department reversed its position on the issue earlier this year. The Senate began consideration yesterday of the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations bill.

The SAP states: "The Administration objects to a new General Provision that would count as "active duty" service the time Alaska Territorial Guard members served during World War II.  This provision would establish a precedent of treating service performed by a State employee as active duty for purposes of the computation of retired pay."

Sen. Murkowski's response:

"It is deeply disappointing, bordering on insensitive, that the Obama administration has registered its opposition to the legislation that Senator Begich and I have proposed which would reinstate the Defense Department's previous policy of counting service in the Alaska Territorial Guard as active duty service for the purpose of calculating military retirement payments. The administration's justification, which is that the legislation will set the precedent of treating service as a State employee as federal service, defies logic and history.

"The Alaska Territorial Guard was formed in 1942, during the period in which Alaska was a territory, by Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening, who was appointed by and reported to the  President of the United States. It was deactivated long before Alaska earned statehood. The territory of Alaska was entitled to the protection of the federal government during World War II. "When it became apparent following the invasion of the Aleutian Islands by Japan that the federal government's attentions were directed elsewhere, Governor Gruening looked to Alaskans to protect our Great Land.  The Territorial Guard had a single role  - to protect Alaska, its strategic mineral resources and its strategic role in the Lend Lease operation.  Sixty two years after the Territorial Guard was disbanded, the Obama Administration minimizes the contribution of this gallant unit to America's success in World War II by calling its service 'state service.'

"Alaskans from all walks of life, including a large number of Alaska's Native peoples, answered the call and selflessly volunteered to defend Alaska against subsequent invasions. Only about 26 of the more than 6,600 who served have received enhanced retirement benefits for their service and all are well into their elder years. I urge President Obama to do the right thing, show some heart, and reconsider the administration's position. This is about honoring 26 elderly Native people, the few remaining survivors of a military unit that served our Nation with valor and contributed mightily to our success in World War II."

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