Trump to extend National Guard deployments through mid-August

Trump to extend National Guard deployments through mid-August
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE on Thursday announced that he would extend the deployment of National Guard troops through mid-August to assist states in responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“The men and women of the National Guard have been doing a great job fighting the CoronaVirus,” Trump tweeted. “This week, I will extend their Title 32 orders through mid-August, so they can continue to help States succeed in their response and recovery efforts.”

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The Trump administration has faced calls from Congress and governors to extend the deployments past June 24, the date that the order was previously scheduled to end.

Politico previously reported that the Trump administration was considering cutting off the deployments on that date, which would have prevented guardsmen from reaching the 90 days of duty credit needed to qualify for early retirement and education benefits.

Deployed in late March, most will hit 89 days of duty credit on June 24.

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“Cutting off your Department’s support to our states on June 24th would undermine our whole-of-nation response and shift the full burden to states whose budgets are already under great strain,” a group of 70 House lawmakers wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperDuckworth to block military confirmations until Esper proves Vindman will be promoted House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal House panel votes to ban Confederate flag at Pentagon property MORE last week.

“We therefore ask that you consult with our governors to continue National Guard deployments for the duration of this crisis,” they wrote.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) sent a letter to Trump dated Wednesday asking Trump to extend the use of the Michigan National Guard to combat the coronavirus until July 31.

Esper has also said he advised extending deployments for guardsmen on "a valid mission assignment" that has been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
"If it's a valid mission assignment, we should certainly extend it, and we should extend that mission assignment until the mission is accomplished," Esper said at a virtual town hall hours before Trump's tweet.

The Trump administration in March agreed to pay the cost of National Guard deployments to states grappling with the pandemic. The original order was due to expire at the end of May and Trump has already extended it once.

More than 46,000 guardsmen have been activated in every state, three territories and Washington, D.C., in order to confront the pandemic in what the National Guard has described as its largest response to a domestic crisis since Hurricane Katrina. National Guard units have been key in states’ efforts to respond to COVID-19, helping to clean nursing homes, set up field hospitals and conduct contact tracing.

Trump’s decision to extend the deployments comes as states across the country execute plans to gradually reopen their economies amid the pandemic by lifting stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of the virus.

Guardsmen are likely to continue to play an important role in the response to the virus as states work to ramp up testing and contact tracing in order to contain future outbreaks.

Updated at 1:21 p.m.