BOSTON (SHNS) – The governor’s bill to double the minimum daily pay earned by soldiers and airmen performing active state duty in the National Guard and to establish a code of conduct for the guard cleared its first hurdle Thursday morning.
After hearing about 17 minutes of testimony on the bill (S 2236) from Major General Gary Keefe, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts Guard, the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security voted unanimously to give the bill a favorable report.
The proposed pay raise would increase the daily minimum from $100 to $200 and would require a budget increase of $250,000, according to the National Guard. There are about 6,300 members of the Army National Guard in Massachusetts and 2,100 in the Air Guard. The force’s lower-ranking members receive the minimum daily rate and service members who already earn $200 or more per day will not get a raise, Keefe said.
“This ensures that your junior airmen and soldiers will be compensated appropriately when called to duty here in the commonwealth for what is a typical 12-hour duty day,” Keefe said.
Keefe said the National Guard has become “an operational force” since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, rather than “a strategic reserve.” Since 2001, Massachusetts National Guard service members have mobilized and deployed 26,628 times, Keefe said. Recent mobilizations have included winter storm response, security at the Boston Marathon and during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
The bill, which Gov. Charlie Baker filed in December, would also establish a state-specific code of conduct for guard members in state service that would mirror the Uniform Code of Military Justice that applies to Massachusetts Guard members who are on active federal duty.
Keefe told the committee on Thursday morning that a state code of conduct is critical for commanders “to maintain good order and discipline” among their ranks.
“Our state law has no parallel to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a result, service members are subject to different standards of conduct depending on their duty status,” he said. “These different standards disrupt continuity and efforts to maintain good order and discipline.
“Lt. Col. Shannon McLaughlin, the Massachusetts National Guard’s state judge advocate, said the National Guard has run into situations in which two people are subject to two different penalties for the same violation because one was subject to the federal Uniform Code of Military Conduct and the other was on state duty.
“You could have two people doing the same criminal act, one would be treated very differently than the other and yet they wear the same uniform and they’re doing the job side by side,” she said.
The code of conduct would apply to desertion, absence without leave, espionage, drunken operation of a vehicle, dueling, malingering and rioting, according to the National Guard. Massachusetts is one of seven states that does not have a state code of military justice.