Approximately 5,000 National Guard troops will remain on the streets of Washington, D.C., with most protecting the U.S. Capitol for almost two more months, in response to requests from federal agencies and local police who anticipate additional unrest.
As of Jan. 25, there were about 13,000 Guard personnel still in the District, down from the more than 25,000 in D.C. to protect the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
The U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service, Capitol Police Department, and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department all requested National Guard help in the coming weeks, and those requests have been approved, Acting Army Secretary John E. Whitley told reporters in a Jan. 25 briefing.
Through early February, about 500 will help the Park Police, 550 will help the Metropolitan Police, 600 will help the Secret Service, and about 5,000 will remain at the U.S. Capitol to help the Capitol Police, Whitley said.
National Guard troops will continue helping with security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety support. The forces will wear protective equipment and remain armed “if necessary,” Whitley said.
Whitley and National Guard leaders would not share specific threats coming in the near future, though Politico reported the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump has created “security concerns” necessitating the use of the Guard.
“We do not engage in that intelligence work ourselves, we rely on our federal partners, particularly the FBI, to provide that information,” Whitley said. “And so what I can tell you in terms of what they’re briefing us, there are several upcoming events, we don’t know what they are, over the next several weeks, and they’re concerned that there could be situations where there are lawful protests, First Amendment protected protests, that could either be used by malicious actors or other problems may emerge.”
Since Guard personnel began arriving in Washington, D.C., shortly after the Jan. 6 incident, about 200 personnel have tested positive for COVID-19. Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told reporters that Guard personnel follow CDC guidelines and Defense Department protocols, and are tested for the virus. When they are positive, the Soldier or Airman is quarantined in the D.C. area until they are cleared to return home.
While the number is concerning, it is still less than 1 percent of the total National Guard presence at its peak, National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson told reporters.