Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik joined her colleagues, led by Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), in calling on President Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to formally designate Kenya a combat zone to allow a group of New York National Guardsmen stationed in the region as part of Task Force Wolfhound to receive Combat Zone Tax Exclusions (CZTE).

“The history and dedication of the 1st Battalion 69th Infantry Regiment are a huge source of pride for New Yorkers. As these National Guard soldiers deploy to Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya, they deserve not only our appreciation, but every single benefit they earned. It is shameful that the Biden Administration is preventing our soldiers from receiving Combat Zone Tax Exclusions while they are bravely serving in Kenya, which has experienced several terrorist attacks. I’m proud to stand up for our National Guard Soldiers by calling on the Biden Administration to formally designate Kenya a combat zone to ensure our servicemembers are eligible for the benefits they deserve,” Stefanik said.

"For Djibouti and Somalia to be designated as combat zones, while Kenya, a nation plagued by terror attacks on behalf of the Al-Shabaab militant group is not, is placing New York’s National Guard Soldiers in harm’s way and allowing them to be taxed on the income that they receive while defending American freedom and values," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "The U.S. Department of State fully prohibits U.S. government employees from traveling to sections of Kenya due to the level of concern for terrorist attacks. If the United States can prohibit our government employees from traveling to these regions due to the dangers associated with the area, how is this same area not recognized as a combat zone for our military personnel?"

A prime example of the terrorist threat in the region is the January 5th, 2020 attack at the Cooperative Security Location in Manda Bay, Kenya. According to the Department of Defense, Al-Shabaab militants conducted an attack in which “killed one U.S. Army Soldier, Specialist Henry J. Mayfield, and two U.S. contract personnel, Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison. The attack also wounded three additional U.S. personnel, one Kenyan soldier, and destroyed $71.5 million of U.S. government resources.”

"After having given so much to the United States, American service members should not have to pay the United States government for being placed in harm’s way. We urge your Administration to formally designate Kenya a combat zone to ensure our service members are eligible for the CZTE and the benefits they deserve," the lawmakers concluded.

Read the full letter here.