Published 12:00 am Monday, May 24, 2004

By: Richard C. Shelby

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the United States has taken more active roles, both diplomatically and militarily, in regions of the world where terror and extremism are bred.

Today, America is steadfastly pursuing terrorist groups and those who give them safe harbor so that we may better ensure our security here at home.

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This global war on terrorism poses many new challenges to America and to our armed forces.

Today, our National Guard and Reserve units are being called upon to serve their country in a much different way than they have been in the past.

The global war on terror and the high operational tempo of our military require that our reserve components play a more active role in the total force.

Unlike any other time in our nation’s history, we now depend heavily on our reservists and have called on many of them to participate in major deployments, including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These deployments frequently necessitate extended tours of duty, many of them exceeding twelve months, for these citizen-soldiers.

Extended tours of duty and frequent activations have a profound and disruptive effect on the lives of these men and women and on the lives of their families and loved ones.

Many of our reservists suffer a significant loss of income when they are mobilized and forced to leave often better-paying private sector or civilian government jobs to serve their country.

Such losses can be compounded by additional family expenses associated with military activation, including the cost of long distance phone calls and the need for additional child care.

These circumstances create a serious financial burden that is extremely difficult for reservists’ families to manage.

We can and should do more to alleviate this financial burden.

I believe that we must recognize the unique hardships of these reservists and compensate them for the increased responsibilities that they are now assuming.

Senator Byron Dorgan and I have proposed S. 2309, the Military Reserve Mobilization Income Security Act.

This legislation would provide a completely refundable income tax credit of up to $20,000 annually to a military reservist called to active duty.

The amount of the tax credit would be based upon the difference between wages paid by the reservist’s private sector or civilian job and the military wages paid upon mobilization, and it would vary according to their length of service.

The tax credit would be available to members of the National Guard or Ready Reserve who are serving for more than 90 days.

We recognize that some businesses continue to pay reservists full salaries while they are activated, and other businesses and local governments support Guard and Reserve families by picking up the difference between their civilian and military pay.

We believe that these employers should be praised for their patriotism and for looking after their employees.

Too many reservists, however, do not have this kind of support and that is precisely the reason we have introduced this important legislation.

The sacrifices of our reservists and the burden they bear to protect our freedoms are significant.

While we can never fully repay them, I believe the Military Reserve Mobilization Income Security Act is an important way to show our gratitude.