Pentagon Authorizes as Many as 15,000 Guardsmen to Support Inauguration

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U.S. Army soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard.
U.S. Army soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard load their backpacks on to a bus at the National Guard Armory at Blackwood, N.J., Jan. 9, 2021. The soldiers are part of nearly 500 New Jersey Citizen-Soldiers and airmen deploying to Washington, D.C. (New Jersey National Guard/Mark C. Olsen)

The head of the National Guard Bureau said Monday that there could be as many as 15,000 Guard troops in Washington, D.C., for Inauguration Day, more than doubling the number of personnel rushed to the city in the wake of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach.

"We have received support requests from the Secret Service, Capitol Police and Park Police, and have been authorized to provide up to 15,000 Guard members to meet current and future support needs," Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters during a call-in roundtable.

By 6 p.m. Jan. 6, the Pentagon had authorized up to 6,200 Guard members from Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania to deploy to D.C. on federal status to maintain security through Inauguration Day after hundreds of Trump supporters pushed past police and began smashing windows and destroying offices inside the Capitol.

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Most of the originally authorized 6,200 Guard members are scheduled to arrive in the city Monday; that number is expected to grow to "up to 10,000 or potentially more by Saturday," Hokanson said.

"Right now, we have a plan for 10,000; we have been authorized up to 15,000," he said. "The number of folks we have here is really directly dependent on the Secret Service, Capitol Police or Park Police."

Some active-duty units will participate in the inauguration activities, but those units will be strictly ceremonial in nature -- such as the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard -- and not part of the security mission, Pentagon officials said at the roundtable.

Hokanson's announcement came after lawmakers raised questions over the weekend about the National Guard's initial delayed response to the Capitol riot, as well as concerns that some members might be supportive to demonstrators looking to disrupt the inauguration.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., requested that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy have the service's Criminal Investigation Command review National Guard troops deployed for the inauguration "to ensure that deployed members are not sympathetic to domestic terrorists," according to a readout released from Crow's call with McCarthy.

McCarthy agreed to the request, according to the readout. But Hoakenson told reporters, "I am not tracking that."

"We work very closely with law enforcement agencies and, if they identify any personnel of interest or concern, obviously we will work with them on that, but I am not aware of any specific concerns at this time," Hokanson said.

Military.com sent a query to McCarthy's office about Crow's request but has not received a response.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund requested urgent, but nonspecific, support during calls with McCarthy and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley that took place minutes before 2 p.m. Jan. 6, according to the readout. It took an hour and 10 minutes for McCarthy, Milley, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Hokanson to process and concur on the "unfolding situation at the Capitol" and approve deployment of Guard assets, including the full mobilization of the D.C. National Guard.

There was no functioning operations center in the Pentagon to manage the Guard presence and direct additional resources, so senior DoD officials had to manage the situation by tracking down previously unknown contacts in local law enforcement and making ad hoc calls in an office environment, the readout states.

The Pentagon offered details of the decision-making process amid criticisms that Virginia and Maryland experienced delays in receiving mobilization orders for Guard forces on Jan. 6.

Hokanson told reporters that he spoke to Virginia's adjutant general at 3:46 p.m. and with Maryland's adjutant general at 3:55 p.m. that day and confirmed that both states had activated their response forces.

"Each of our 50 states, three territories and D.C. have an identified National Guard response force," he said. "The general standard we use is that the initial element, or about a quarter of that force, should be at their armory within eight hours. And within 24 hours is when we expect really the full force to be there."

Hokanson said both the Maryland and Virginia Guard units met their timelines.

"They were the first units in Washington to support the D.C. National Guard, and I believe they arrived at about 9 a.m. on [Jan.] 7, the next day," he said. "So, when we look at the timelines for the requests for the National Guard response force, they met all the general guidance that we provide them."

Once Guard members arrive in D.C., they will fall under the responsibility of Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. Guard, Hokanson said, adding that the troops have been requested to support security, logistics, liaison duties and communication missions.

Guard members were mobilized under Title 32, so they are authorized to perform law enforcement duties if requested, Hokanson added.

"In many cases, we ask the National Guard to do those mission sets like protect the locations to free up the law enforcement officers so they can perform the law enforcement capabilities," he said.

If the need arises, Guard members will have the capability to carry weapons but only as a last resort, Hokanson said.

"With respect to arming -- obviously, you know, we will work very closely with the federal agencies, the FBI and law enforcement to determine if there is a need for that," he said. "Obviously, we are very concerned that we want our individuals to have the right to self defense, and so that will be an ongoing conversation. And if the senior leadership determines if that is the right posture to be in, then that's something we will do."

As a general rule, Guard units deploying to other states bring all assigned equipment in case the need arises, Hokanson said.

"Anytime that our National Guard go somewhere, we make sure they bring all of their equipment. ... We actually ask them to make sure they do bring their weapons as well, just so they are here locally," he said. "So, when they need them -- and ideally, we hope they never do, but if [they] do -- we want to know that they are close by and they are readily accessible."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Lawmaker to Army Secretary: Investigate Troops Deploying to Inauguration for Domestic Terror Sympathies

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