Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is optimistic that 2,500 Minnesota soldiers who have been waiting three years for $10 million in bonus pay will receive their overdue compensation soon.
On Wednesday, Kline confronted Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a budget hearing, demanding to know when they would get paid.
"Nobody's received a dime, not a single dime," Kline said. "And so the question is: When can these soldiers expect to receive those...payments?"
Under Secretary Robert Hale, sitting with Gates, said, "I'll take that for the record."
The 2,500 soldiers from the 34th Infantry Division, known as the Red Bulls, deployed to Iraq in 2005. The troops spent 22 months in active duty -- six months longer than the initial assignment.
It was the longest deployment of any infantry unit since World War II. The soldiers returned with a promise from the federal government that they would receive bonus pay for their long service. Nationwide, 23,000 National Guard soldiers have not received their bonus pay, Kline said.
Kline says he hasn't spoken directly with Gates since yesterday's hearing, but he's optimistic that the Pentagon will process the payments quickly.
"Now that the Secretary is personally and publicly on the line, we should have an answer much quicker," Kline said.
Kline blames the delay on Pentagon leadership, a slow bureaucratic system for processing payments, and the failure of politicians to draw attention to the problem more quickly.
"This is real money," Kline told MPR's Tom Crann on Thursday. "And bureaucracies can lose sight of that."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)