The Pentagon apparently has the power to address the growing scandal involving nearly 10,000 soldiers who were paid juicy cash bonuses but are now being forced to pay it all back, after an audit found the payments were improperly issued.
“The law is clear that it allows the Secretary of Defense to stop the recoupment” of bonus payments, Joe Kaspar, the chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), told Business Insider. “Now making someone whole again, that’s probably where Congress is going to have to step in.”
Kaspar pointed to the law concerning pay and allowances for the US military, Title 37, which has a provision that specifically gives the Defense Secretary the ability to waive the repayment of improper bonus payments if they would be “contrary to personnel policy or management objective, would be against the equity and good conscience, or would be contrary to the best interests of the United States.”
A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider he would look into the matter.
“I do know that Sec Def was talking about this, and he said there are a lot of complexities,” said Maj. Jamie Davis. “We are looking into it, and we are going to resolve it.”
Indeed, Carter has directed a top Pentagon official to look into and solve the issue, according to Stars & Stripes.
But members of Congress are saying that Carter can resolve the issue using the current authority of Title 37. That authority would be especially important to use if the Pentagon wanted to fix the matter quickly, since Congress will not be in session until after the November election.
“We’ve already called on Defense Secretary Ash Carter to use his existing authority to halt efforts to claw back these bonuses, and we’re encouraged by his recent remarks that the department is looking to resolve this situation,” wrote Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a joint statement.
“However, if Secretary Carter decides not to use that authority, we will introduce legislation when Congress is back in session – and use every opportunity to get it enacted into law before the end of the year – so that service members who unknowingly received improper reenlistment bonuses and other incentives can keep what they earned by wearing our nation’s uniform.”
One legislative fix is also being worked on for the FY17 defense authorization bill that would add a statute of limitations concerning how long the DoD has to get back improper payments.