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Iraqi Government Continues Progress Toward Paying All ‘Sons of Iraq’

American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, April 20, 2009 – The Iraqi government is on schedule to assume responsibility for paying all of the nation's “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group members, and is working to pay back wages to members of the group who are owed money due to a legislative oversight, coalition authorities said.

"Time and again, the government of Iraq and the coalition have demonstrated a commitment to the Sons of Iraq through their actions, and that's borne out here," Army Maj. Gen. John Johnson, deputy commanding general for operations for Multinational Corps Iraq, said.

Once the pay is on track, Iraqi and coalition authorities will shift attention to transitioning the Sons of Iraq into other jobs in government ministries and the Iraqi security forces in what Johnson described as “an important signal of significant movement in the months to come."

Iraqi paymasters distribute salaries to Sons of Iraq members in four provinces: Baghdad, Babil, Wasit and Diyala. They will add three more provinces to that total in late April, and by May's monthly payday, the Iraqi government will be paying all of the group's 91,000 or so members across nine provinces, Army Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, chief of reconciliation for Multinational Corps Iraq, said.

At the same time, officials are taking measures to catch up on payments that were delayed in the first four provinces due to an inadvertent budgeting error. The corrective process is nearly complete in three of the provinces and is ongoing in the fourth, Kulmayer said, adding that the government should be caught up shortly after it takes on pay responsibilities in the remaining five provinces.

The payment delay resulted from changes to the 2009 budget by the Council of Representatives, the nation's main legislative body. Those changes inadvertently left out funding for Sons of Iraq salaries, delaying payments to some members of the group in four provinces by several weeks to a month, Kulmayer said.

"The glitch itself resulted from the sorts of issues you'd expect in a healthy democratic government: legislative deliberations over budgets," Kulmayer said, noting that the Sons of Iraq program was not the only one affected by the budget adjustments. An initiative to fund 200 local support councils around the country also was temporarily left unfunded by the Council of Representatives' changes, he said.

Iraq's executive Council of Ministers acted quickly to correct the oversight and passed a measure to pay the Sons of Iraq salaries out of the Interior Ministry's budget. That solution will remain in effect until the Council of Representatives passes a permanent resolution to dedicate funds for the Sons of Iraq, Kulmayer said.

"It does take some time to achieve these transfers," he said, "but the Iraqis have dedicated themselves to compensating the Sons of Iraq for their work and sacrifice, and they are taking the appropriate actions."

The resolution of the payments was a priority for government and coalition authorities, who have focused on the Sons of Iraq program as "the leading edge of reconciliation in Iraq," Kulmayer said. The Iraqi government moved to restore funding to the program even before passing the final 2009 budget.

"Working with the Iraqi government, we are taking a population that was separate, integrating them into the new Iraq and providing them hope," Kulmayer said.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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