US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered the Pentagon to stop seeking repayments of enlistment bonuses given to California National Guard members who served overseas. His decision comes in the wake of angry reaction from members of Congress who demanded he relieve the burden on the Guard members, reports the AP. And the White House said President Obama has warned the Defense Department not to "nickel and dime" service members who were victims of overzealous recruiters. In a statement issued during a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, Carter said effort to collect reimbursement should stop "as soon as is practical."
He said he has ordered the department to set up a streamlined process by Jan. 1 to help troops get relief from the repayment obligation, because the current program has moved too slowly. The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that the Pentagon has demanded that some soldiers repay their enlistment bonuses after audits revealed overpayments by the California National Guard. Recruiters under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals at the height of the two wars improperly offered bonuses of $15,000 or more to soldiers who re-enlisted, the newspaper reported. The new process will put "as little burden as possible on any soldier who received an improper payment through no fault of his or her own," Carter said. (Read more US military stories.)