February 23, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has not started complying with a law requiring the payment of monthly bonuses of up to $500 to soldiers forced to remain on active duty beyond their enlistment period, military officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged the five-month delay in paying the bonuses and said the Defense Department is working on a plan to start paying the almost 13,000 soldiers currently under the Army’s stop-loss orders. Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to end the policy, the number of soldiers affected has risen since the middle of 2007.
Congress added $72 million to pay for the bonuses in its plan for the budget year that started Oct. 1. The money was to be paid after the Pentagon submitted a plan outlining how the payments would be made.
But no plan has been provided, Rob Blumenthal, a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Friday.
“It is unacceptable that the Department (of Defense) has failed to construct a plan for issuing these payments,” said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “Stop loss is nothing more than a backdoor draft, and … if the Defense Department is going to insist on holding servicemembers under stop-loss orders, then they should be compensated for their service.”