Pentagon Approves Two-Month Extension for National Guard Deployment to DC

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U.S. Army Col. Chris McKinney speaks with soldiers in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Army Col. Chris McKinney, right, commander of both the 177th Military Police Brigade, Michigan National Guard, and Joint Task Force Independence for the Capitol Response mission, speaks with soldiers in Washington, D.C. Feb. 7, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard/Capt. Joe Legros)

Some 2,300 National Guard troops will remain deployed to Washington, D.C. until at least May 23, the Pentagon announced Tuesday night.

The deployment extension, approved after a request from the U.S. Capitol Police, will stretch the Guard mission to protect the nation's capital to nearly six months.

"Nearly 2,300 National Guard personnel will continue the support mission.This represents a reduction of nearly 50 percent of the current support force," Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. "This decision was made after a thorough review of the request and after close consideration of its potential impact on readiness."

Close to 5,000 Guard troops from around the country are now deployed to D.C., down from the nearly 26,000 who converged on the capital ahead of President Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. Guard members from every state and territory were mobilized after a Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally turned violent, and rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers to shelter in place for hours.

While the inauguration was completely peaceful, it's not clear when the Guard mission will be brought to a close. A task force headed by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré called this week for the establishment of a permanent National Guard quick-reaction force in the district.

"This could be done by mobilizing military police from Guard elements across the U.S. on rotations of three to six months," a report released by the task force proposed. "Another option would be to create a QRF that permanently resides within the D.C. Guard by reestablishing a military police battalion and staffing it with active Guard reserve troops who live in or near the city year-round, perpetually on active duty."

Kirby said in the Tuesday night statement that defense officials would work with U.S. Capitol Police during the extended deployment "to incrementally reduce the National Guard footprint as conditions allow."

"We thank the National Guard for its support throughout this mission, as well as for its significant efforts across the nation in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

-- Steve Beynon contributed to this report.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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