Army National Guard’s bonus backlog started with 2018 Pentagon fire

by Tommy Grant

The Army National Guard’s continued failure to pay enlistment bonuses in a timely manner dates back to a 2018 Pentagon fire, according to documents reviewed by Army Times.

According to a report, the National Guard Bureau is tracking more than 9,000 delinquent bonus payments to current members of the Army National Guard. Officials are aware that 3,900 discharged soldiers may be owed bonus money, too, the outlet reported.

The component’s enlistment bonuses, which range as high as $20,000 for certain jobs, traditionally disburse in two lump sums: one after a soldier finishes their entry training, and a second when the soldier completes half of their initial contract term.

National Guard officials who spoke with attributed the bonus backlog to inconsistent state-level processes required to manually submit payments after the Guard Incentive Management System crashed in 2018. The system, known as GIMS, has functioned inconsistently in the years since, leaving state-level incentives managers to alternate between a partially functional GIMS and a bureaucratic manual payment request process.

The 2018 GIMS crash occurred due to a “Pentagon server fire,” according to an Army Board for Correction of Military Records document. A Nov. 2, 2018 memorandum — which Army Times obtained — from the bureau’s personnel director described “a catastrophic failure which caused a near total loss” of the GIMS servers. Col. Timothy Rooney, then the Army Guard G-1, instructed states to manually process bonus payments thereafter.

The Guard Bureau struggled to get the system back online, according to information the agency provided Army Times in February 2022. “After restoring the application from previous software backups, several issues persisted,” said then-spokesperson Wayne Hall. He said the problems included cybersecurity compliance and defects in the software backup.

During that period, the incentive delays fluctuated based on system functionality and state-level staffing, according to Hall. The National Guard Bureau also struggled to centrally track the backlog because of the off-and-on problems, but the bureau stepped up the support it provided state incentives managers over time.

The agency did not immediately respond to an email from Army Times seeking an update on the GIMS restoration project.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard’s border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.

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