May 19, 2022

Duckworth, Blackburn, Brown, Kelly Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Improve the Promotion Process for National Guard Servicemembers, Ensure Officers Don’t Fall Behind in Careers or Compensation


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chair of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland, and U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to improve and streamline the promotion process for National Guard officers and warrant officers to ensure these servicemembers can progress in their careers without needless bureaucratic delays. The National Guard Promotion Improvement Act would assess and review the current process, provide recommendations on how to improve it and ensure backpay to servicemembers for delayed promotions. U.S. Representatives Anthony G. Brown (D-MD-04) and Trent Kelly (R-MS-01) are introducing the House companion legislation.

“Every day, our National Guardsmen and women work to protect and defend our Constitution as well as respond to communities in times of crisis—the least we can do is make sure they receive their earned promotion in a timely manner, so their pay and benefits match the job they’re doing,” said Senator Duckworth. “The current bureaucratic process results in lengthy delays that are unacceptable. Every member of the National Guard deserves their promotions to be recognized on time so they don’t fall behind in their careers, which is why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral bill that would assess and review the process, provide recommendations to improve it and ensure backpay for delayed promotions.”

“Facing wildfires, floods, statewide emergencies, and international crises, Tennessee's National Guard troops are always ready, always there,” said Senator Blackburn. “Complicated red tape has prevented these servicemen and women from receiving the on-time promotions they earned. This bill removes unnecessary obstacles, requires ongoing research to streamline processes, and provides our servicemembers with backpay to support themselves and their families.”

“The steadfast service of our National Guardsmen and women was on full display throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as they worked tirelessly to provide relief for families. That commitment to protecting and being there for our communities in times of crisis is core to what it means to serve as a citizen soldier,” said Congressman Brown. “Through their service, they’ve earned our deepest respect and deserve timely promotions and benefits for all they do for our country. Ending these unacceptable delays and streamlining this system is the right thing to do. We owe our Guardsmen and women nothing less.”

“Our men and women in the National Guard stand at the ready to protect our great nation in times of war and peace,” said Congressman Kelly. “As member of Congress, it is our duty to make sure they are fully compensated for the outstanding work they do. That begins by ensuring promotions are carried out in a timely process without forcing service members to wade through federal government red tape.”

Currently, National Guard officer and warrant officer promotions are managed through a unique process that begins at the state level before going through an additional step unique to the Guard called the federal recognition (FEDREC) process, managed by National Guard Bureau (NGB), the Army, Air Force and the Department of Defense. This process has suffered from significant delays affecting servicemembers’ careers and pay.

NGB reports that for Army promotions it is taking an average of 240 days for federal recognition to be extended to a promotion once it arrives at NGB. For the Air National Guard, it is taking an average of 180-210 days once a promotion arrives. Since the National Guard primarily does vacancy promotions, affected servicemembers are serving in and performing the duties of positions suited for their next promotion rank but earning the pay of their current rank. It also slows their career progressions compared to their colleagues in the other service components. While service secretaries have the authority to adjust the effective date of rank for delayed promotions, they have seldom used it, complicating servicemembers’ backpay for their delayed promotions.

The National Guard Promotion Improvement Act would:

  • Request an outside review of the National Guard FEDREC system. This bill will require DoD enter into a contract with a federally funded research and development corporation to study the National Guard officer and warrant officer promotion system and provide recommendations for improvements.
  • Provide consistent Congressional oversight of this longstanding issue. Requires an annual report to Congress on various specific metrics to ensure consistent oversight of the status of delayed promotions. This reporting requirement is reduced in frequency as DoD makes progress in shortening the average delay for federal recognition of promotions.
  • Ensure servicemembers receive backpay for delayed promotions. This bill will require the service secretaries to backdate the date of rank for servicemembers with delayed promotions to no later than 60 days after the date NGB receives the promotion ensuring servicemembers receive their proper benefits and progress in their careers. Servicemembers should not be financially punished for promotions that are significantly delayed due to an inefficient process or forced to wait years for pay they have earned performing the duties of their delayed rank.

Along with Duckworth and Blackburn, this bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In the House of Representatives, it’s cosponsored by Representative Kaiali?i Kahele (D-HI-02) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS-04).

Bill text can be found here.

Duckworth was one of the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She served on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) during her four years serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.