Senior leaders from five of the uniformed services’ reserve component branches spoke out in favor of aligning pay and benefits within their organizations during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense budget hearing today.

As part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the Defense Department to establish duty status reform legislation that would seek to better align reserve component members’ pay and benefits in order to improve warfighting readiness, according to DOD’s website on military compensation.

When queried about duty status reform, Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson explained that the proposed legislation streamlines 27 separate military duty statuses down to nine. This would ensure that all service members — whether active duty, Guard or reservist — who are working side by side at the same time and location, and who are on the same duty status, would be afforded the same pay and benefits, Hokanson said. 

“It would streamline the process significantly,” he added, “[and] also ensure that we no longer have disparity … between our service members.” 

Other senior leaders on the panel spoke favorably of duty status reform and the need to implement it. “The Army Reserve is greatly supportive of duty status reform and whatever we can do to help make that a success,” said Lt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels, chief of Army Reserve. “It would help us with our efficiencies of processing pay actions, as well.” 

Regarding those actions, duty status reform would mitigate disruptions in pay caused by reserve component members who often have to endure multiple changes in pay status while on active-duty orders by creating four broad pay categories, according to DOD. 

“The Air Force Reserve is absolutely supportive,” Lt. Gen. John P. Healy, chief of Air Force Reserve, said of duty status reform. “It’s all about aligning and getting rid of the deficiencies that we currently have for the multitude of statuses.” 

Healy added that he believes the passage and implementation of duty status reform would help with retention. 

“It makes it easier for airmen to serve,” he said, adding that would be especially true if the airmen can easily comprehend what pay and entitlements are due to them. 

Though Congress originally directed the DOD to address the numerous pay and benefit disruptions and disparities that reserve component members were vulnerable to in 2016, there is still no clear date on when duty status reform will finally be passed into law.  

“I can tell you the Navy is strongly supportive [of duty status reform] and disappointed that it’s taken this long,” Vice Adm. John Mustin, chief of Navy Reserve, told the subcommittee. “We’ve talked about it for several years — since before 2019 in my case — and we all enthusiastically support the concept.” 

When asked about the current status of the proposed duty status review legislation, Hokanson said that it is currently with the Office of Management and Budget. 

“It has cleared [DOD] and almost everyone that I know of is supportive of that,” he said. “I think the issue is getting it through OMB to come forward.”

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