Capitol Police staffing shortfalls prompted the force to request an extension of the National Guard mission for two months, but with a price tag now ballooning past $500 million and no clearly stated threat, the National Guard Association says now it is time for law enforcement to take over.
The idea of a true threat to the U.S. Capitol was dismissed at the Pentagon this week when spokesman John Kirby told the Washington Examiner that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s approval of a two-month extension for some 2,300 Guard members was in order to “buy them [Capitol Police] some time and space.”
National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson also said in an internal memo dated March 4 that he disagreed with Austin’s decision given Guard responsibilities in their home states. Now, the National Guard Association representing the more than 450,000 citizen soldiers, has also denounced the extension.
“This enduring requirement of having them around the city, I think it’s completely inappropriate at best, illegal at worst,” National Guard Association Chairman and Arizona Adjunct General, Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire told the Washington Examiner Friday.
McGuire is the only adjunct general to refuse to authorize his state’s Guard deployment to the Capitol since Jan. 9.
“Every American citizen should be concerned that an unelected Cabinet secretary can move forces into the city,” he added. “The National Guard specifically is the last line of defense for direct policing action only in the emergent period when it is life, limb, protection of property.”
Meanwhile, the Guard is having difficulty sourcing the extension request and may force Guard members to stay involuntarily, while bipartisan calls from Congress have moved for the citizen soldiers to be sent home. Still, Kirby pushed back Thursday on the idea of a never-ending mission.
“I don’t think anybody wants to see this become an enduring mission,” he told reporters, while refusing to say whether Austin would approve another extension beyond May 23.
“At the same time, he recognizes that there is a legitimate need for them,” Kirby said. “A valid requirement because of some capability gaps and capacity shortages right now that the Capitol Police are experiencing, as they adjust to a new post-Jan. 6 environment.”
Congressional testimony has revealed that failure to share intelligence adequately and concerns about the “optics” of having National Guard troops at the U.S. Capitol contributed to it being overrun by pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, when electoral votes were being counted.
A subsequent six-week, congressionally ordered investigation led by retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore called for permanent physical barriers to replace miles of temporary razor wire-topped fencing and a standby quick reaction force.
A decision on these and other measures has not yet been made, but Capitol Police are still struggling to fill a reported 233 vacancies.
The U.S. Capitol Police did not respond to multiple inquiries from the Washington Examiner.
Even Hokanson disagreed with Austin’s decision to extend the mission, writing in the leaked memo that tapping the National Guard to fill those vacancies is not what the Guard was created for.
“I am concerned that the continued indefinite nature of this requirement may also impede our ability to man future missions,” the memo read. “Efforts to date have not secured enough volunteers among supporting states to meet the USCP request of 2,280 soldiers, nor Option B of 1,000 soldiers.”
In Hokanson’s March 4 dissent, he cited “unprecedented demand” for the National Guard by governors across the nation to fulfill needs, including national disasters, civil unrest, overseas deployments, and COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Author: Abraham Mahshie
Source: Washington Examiner: Exclusive: National Guard Association calls for end of mission at the Capitol