Less than 24 hours after the U.S. Capitol was penetrated by violent rioting that temporarily placed the area on lockdown, more than 6,000 Guard personnel from Washington, D.C., and multiple surrounding states are being mobilized to address chaos in the District. Troops are erecting a seven-foot fence around the U.S. Capitol to stop a subsequent invasion, and Mayor Muriel Bowser called upon Congress to give the District of Columbia control over its own National Guard.
During a Jan. 7 joint press conference with Bowser and the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said a total of 6,200 Guard troops from D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York would be in the National Capital Region by this weekend.
In a Pentagon briefing later the same day, McCarthy told reporters the Guard personnel are on a minimum 30-day deployment to the Capitol grounds and other locations throughout the District. The troops would work on 12-hour shifts, with about 850 per shift helping to protect the Capitol building.
As of the afternoon of Jan. 7, there were 741 Guardsmen on the Capitol grounds, and 93 distributed at 31 other spots around the city, he said.
While the 6,200 Guardsmen “will help us get enough capability” and look forward to helping secure the Jan. 20 inauguration, McCarthy said the number could change. The Guardsmen will not currently be carrying weapons, he said. However, he noted, the Pentagon is “looking very closely” at the use of force rules and “will make adjustments accordingly.”
Neither the Office of the Secretary of Defense, nor the National Guard Bureau released a breakdown of how many personnel each supporting state was slated to contribute by press time. It’s also not clear how many of the 6,200 are in the Air National Guard.
However, 500 of these supporting forces will come from the New Jersey National Guard, including an unspecified number of Airmen from the N.J. Air National Guard’s 108th Wing, which is based out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and the 177th Fighter Wing, which calls Atlantic City Air National Guard Base home, according to a Jan. 7 NJNG release.
“The mission is to support the D.C. National Guard and local law enforcement, providing security, protection of national monuments, and ensuring the peaceful transfer of power,” the release stated.
All of the supporting NJNG personnel will be in the District by Jan. 10, and their deployment will last at least until Jan. 20, the release added.
The approximately 500 supporting troops from Maryland are all members of the Maryland Army National Guard, according to a Jan. 8 NGB release.
Prior to the violence that broke out on Jan. 6, McCarthy approved a request to activate approximately 340 DCNG personnel to support law enforcement and emergency responders with crowd control and road closures ahead of expected election-related demonstrations in the city from Jan. 5-7, Air Force Magazine previously reported.
Kenneth P. Rapuano, the under secretary of defense for homeland security and global security, told reporters in a briefing that because the Pentagon cannot conduct domestic surveillance, it is wholly reliant on law enforcement for this information in the planning stages. During meetings last week, the U.S. Capitol Police and other entities discussed possible scenarios that would develop, and as recently as Jan. 3 USCP told the Pentagon it would not need Guard help.
The Capitol Police shared some intelligence in these calls, including internet traffic that discussed possible violence and bringing weapons to the Capitol, though they questioned the “dependability” of this intelligence and the police believed their posture was enough, Rapuano said.
“Based on the assessment they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request” for more help, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman told reporters.
The 340 Guardsmen were on standby to help Washington, D.C., Metro Police with tasks such as traffic and crowd control. There was also a 40-member “quick reaction force” on standby at Joint Base Andrews, Md., if needed, but they were only available to help Metro Police with those control tasks.
But once the situation escalated and the Capitol Building was breached, the U.S. Capitol Police asked for additional backup. The situation was on a “short fuse,” and Guardsmen were able to report to the armory, get into riot gear, and help police clear the area within a couple hours, McCarthy said.
“At 9 a.m. this morning, we began erecting a seven-foot, nonscalable fence, which will be from Constitution, Independence, and First Avenue to … in front of the pond right there in front of the Capitol, that road right there,” McCarthy added. “So, these personnel and the security measures will be in place for no less than the next 30 days, and we’ll be keeping all of these support mechanisms in place in constant coordination with the Capitol Police, and the Mayor’s Office.”
Who’s the Boss?
During her Jan. 7 press briefing, Bowser called on Congress to give control over DCNG to the city mayor.
“Congress must immediately transfer command of the District of Columbia National Guard from the President of the United States, and put it squarely under the command and control of the Mayor of the District of Columbia,” Bowser said.
A National Guard spokesperson confirmed to Air Force Magazine that such a change would require an act of Congress, but according to Bowser, a D.C. statehood bill introduced Jan. 3 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) could pave the way for this change.
Bowser said that D.C. statehood would give the D.C. government two advantages.
First, the D.C. mayor wouldn’t need to request Guard support from the Army Secretary.
Second, since deployment plans would no longer require SECARMY approval, statehood would give the mayor full control over how the DCNG is deployed, allowing for more flexibility in how troops are used and letting them make real-time changes in response to changing situations on the ground.
“If we have a deployment plan that was approved, for example, that limited the Guard to the traffic box or to Ninth Street, [and] if we find out during the course of the response that that needs to change dramatically, then I, as mayor/governor, would make that determination,” Bowser said.
However, Bowser noted, statehood wouldn’t change everything: A theoretical D.C. mayor/governor would still lack the authority to deploy DCNG troops to the U.S. Capitol steps or send state police to the Capitol grounds.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Jan. 7 at 7:08 p.m. EST to include new information from the New Jersey National Guard.