U.S. Rep. Tom Petri will offer two amendments to a defense authorization bill today or Friday. One amendment would compensate National Guard troops for miscalculated leave time. The other would impact the ability of a number of companies, including Orion Energy Systems of Manitowoc and Plymouth, to compete for Defense Department business.
The first amendment would correct a government error to pay approximately 575 Army National Guard troops for the vacation days they earned through the Post Deployment Mobilization Respite Absence program that they were unable to take after their last deployment. Some have not been reimbursed for as long as five years.
Soldiers in Wisconsin are affected more than those in any other state with 80 Wisconsin Army National Guardsmen impacted, most of whom are members of the 1157th Transportation Company based in Oshkosh. The 1157th is once again serving overseas after deploying to Afghanistan just last month.
While the number of leave days due to each soldier varies, it is estimated that Petri's amendment would give an average payment of $5,100 to affected soldiers in Wisconsin.
"This is a simple matter of giving our troops what they are clearly owed," said Petri. "They are putting their lives on the line overseas, and they deserve to have us fix this."
The first Petri amendment incorporates H.R. 3863, the Fair Military Leave Act, which Petri introduced along with Congressman Ron Kind on February 1. Senator Herb Kohl has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
The second Petri amendment would clarify that "direct use" solar energy is considered a renewable energy source for the purpose of meeting the Defense Department's statutory goal that 25 percent of the energy it uses in its facilities must come from renewable sources by 2025.
"Direct use solar energy technology channels sunlight into buildings to provide interior lighting that is similar to traditional electric lights," said Petri. "It can result in tremendous energy savings because it allows much of a building's internal lighting to come from sunlight, relying on electric lighting only in the off-peak hours or when it is especially cloudy during the day."
"This amendment could benefit the economy in Manitowoc and Plymouth where Orion Energy Systems is one of the companies which specializes in this technology. Strictly on the merits, direct use solar energy qualifies as 'renewable' in the same sense that geothermal heat pumps and solar thermal devices do. That's as sure as the sun coming up in the morning," Petri said.