The Defense Department has authorized as many as 15,000 troops to be deployed to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
National Guard Bureau chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson said that there will initially be a deployment of 10,000 troops — an increase of about 4,000 from those in D.C. now.
That figure is twice the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
“Right now we have 10,000 inbound and we’re authorized to go to [15,000],” said the NGB chief. The troops will assist District and federal agencies with “security, logistics, communications, and liaison missions,” he said.
The general declined to specify whether the guardsmen will be armed, stating that “we will work very closely with the federal agency, the FBI and law enforcement to determine if there is a need for that.” A D.C. National Guard spokesman told Military Times on Sunday that while some troops came to town with their weapons, carrying them on the streets had not yet been authorized. Any such decision to do so would be based on the security situation.
It was not immediately clear whether the troops would be authorized to wear body armor, but a source with first-hand knowledge of the deployment told Military Times that most Guard troops currently at the Capitol do not have the “green light” to wear body armor or helmets. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, an Air National Guard veteran, died Thursday after rioters struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher.
The troops “are authorized to do law enforcement if that’s requested from the supporting agency,” said Hokanson. He stressed, though, that using Guard troops as law enforcement would be “literally...a last resort.”
Asked whether the Guard was taking special measures to screen the deploying troops — many of whom are already on their way to D.C. — for extremist ties, Hokanson said he was “not aware of that at this time.”
Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, who served as an Army officer in the 75th Ranger Regiment, had pressed Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to direct a “[Criminal Investigative Division] review of troops deployed for the inauguration to ensure that deployed members are not sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”
At least one active-duty Army soldier, a psychological operations officer stationed in North Carolina, is under investigation for her role in Wednesday’s rally for President Donald Trump, and at least one veteran was identified by online sleuths as having breached the Capitol.
On Sunday, New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski took to Twitter to express his concerns regarding the potential sympathies of troops, saying, “I’m increasingly worried about this problem in the ranks.”
Hokanson, the NGB chief, said during Thursday’s call that troops with extremist or insurrectionist ties would “be referred to the appropriate authorities.”
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.