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Pentagon pledges to fix bonus issue; White House says troops shouldn't be 'nickel-and-dimed'

“We are going to look into and resolve it,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.

By Doug G. Ware
Pentagon pledges to fix bonus issue; White House says troops shouldn't be 'nickel-and-dimed'
A U.S. service member carries the American Flag at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on May 3. Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon will look into and resolve the outcry generated recently by orders from the U.S. military to thousands of members of the Army National Guard to repay enlistment bonuses they received when they joined the armed forces years ago. Photo by Spc. Middleton/U.S. Army National Guard/UPI

PARIS, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Tuesday promised a resolution to the outcry the Pentagon generated by ordering service members in the Army National Guard to repay bonuses given them to enlist years ago.

Speaking in Paris, where he was meeting with French officials, Carter said his administration will look into the matter.

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"We are going to look into and resolve it," he said Tuesday. "It is a significant issue."

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About 10,000 California Army National Guard members were recently informed that they would have to pay back the enlistment bonuses because they were issued improperly by the Department of Defense.

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The amount they were ordered to pay back varies from $10,000 to $15,000.

Pentagon officials said this week that the same order was also probably given to other National Guard members in other states.

The issue has spurred plenty of controversy among service members and government officials. The White House said Tuesday that the Department of Defense shouldn't "nickel and dime" the former recruits.

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The issue came to light as part of an investigation that involved recruiters offering the bonuses when they weren't authorized to.

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Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, said Tuesday that he didn't think the president was ready to forgive all the bonuses quite yet -- but he also doesn't want the Pentagon to squeeze service members without a full review of the matter.

The Pentagon said they have reviewed thousands of individual cases, in which it has some ability to dismiss debts. Of the 13,500 California cases it has reviewed already, the department has found errors in more than 5,400 and overpayments in 1,100 more.

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"It is unconscionable that the responsibility for paying for bureaucratic malfeasance and corruption over a decade ago is being laid at the feet of the heroes who put themselves in harm's way to keep our nation safe," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement. "The Department of Defense should forgive these debts immediately."

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