By the end of the weekend, there will be 6,200 National Guard troops from six states and the District of Columbia deployed in the National Capitol Region, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a Thursday press conference. The personnel will be on duty for “no less than the next 30 days,” said McCarthy.
“The entire D.C. National Guard has been mobilized,” said McCarthy, appointed by President Donald Trump. “We have also received support from [the] states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York.”
The troops will be available to man static security positions around the city, including along a 7-foot-high non-scalable fence being constructed around the Capitol on Thursday. McCarthy stated that 850 troops would be on Capitol Hill by noon Thursday, freeing up local police.
“We could get as many Metropolitan Police officers out into the streets [as possible] so that in the event that if this was to recur...[MPD Chief Robert Contee III] would have as much flexibility with his police force as possible,” said McCarthy. “And we could take over the static security positions.”
The troops will remain on the ground “through the inauguration,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
A source with first-hand knowledge of the situation told Military Times that at least some D.C. and Maryland Guard troops were receiving 31-day Title 32 orders, which allow the troops to enjoy full benefits such as health insurance and housing allowance. The source requested anonymity because of not being authorized to speak with media. During a Thursday evening teleconference, McCarthy confirmed that all 6,200 troops are “on a minimum of a 30-day deployment” on Title 32 orders.
Asked by a reporter “why there were no troops or any other backup security [at the Capitol] yesterday,” McCarthy said that the Capitol Police had not requested assistance from the National Guard, a prerequisite to the deployment of Guard troops.
In the later teleconference, McCarthy and Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano clarified that Capitol Police had repeatedly opted not to request assistance from the National Guard.
“We were informed that additional support from [the Defense Department] was not needed...as late as Sunday,” said Rapuano.
In the earlier in-person press conference, Bowser called for Congress to pass legislation that would give her control of the D.C. National Guard, saying it would make it easier to respond to crises like Wednesday’s attack.
“We could be nimble in how we change [deployment plans],” she explained. Currently the District must clear deployment plans with McCarthy, who has the authority to activate the D.C. Guard. Those plans are then less flexible, she explained, because any changes have to be approved by McCarthy, who has command authority over the forces.
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who oversees McCarthy, signed off on the decision to activate the troops, according to POLITICO.
“I, and the people I lead in the Department of Defense... will execute the time-honored peaceful transition of power to President-elect Biden on January 20,” said Miller in a statement Thursday afternoon.
But on Wednesday afternoon, securing Miller’s authorization took about an hour, a source familiar with the process told Military Times, from the time McCarthy received it around 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The source was not authorized to speak about it on the record.
“If you’re under duress, minutes and seconds count,” said McCarthy in the Thursday teleconference. He did not address whether Congress should shift the D.C. Guard to the mayor’s control.
One of the reasons for the delayed in deploying the already-activated members of the D.C. Guard on Wednesday was the need for troops to return to the armory and don riot gear, said McCarthy.
McCarthy did not answer a question, though, about whether the 6,200 troops standing watch through the inauguration will be armed or what protective gear they will utilize.
It was not immediately clear when troops would be arriving from their respective states. A New York National Guard spokesman, Army Col. Richard Goldenberg, told Military Times on Wednesday evening that “it does take us a little bit of time to alert and mobilize these forces to have them come in, and to have them muster, and to have them board buses and head on down.”
Goldenberg also indicated that the New York troops were previously tagged to deploy to the District to support inauguration security.
“[We’re] part of a larger package by the National Guard Bureau for the inaugural support mission,” said Goldenberg. “It’s not like we weren’t expecting and planning and preparing for inaugural support for 2021.”
McCarthy described the 6,200 troops as “a larger composition of personnel than you would have for a standard inauguration,” in Thursday’s news conference, though.
The Pennsylvania National Guard declined to answer questions from Military Times, saying only the governor’s office was authorized to speak on the matter. Press staff for Governor Tom Wolf did not immediately respond to a query from Military Times.
NGB officials referred Military Times to the D.C. Guard in response to emailed questions regarding the inauguration mission. The D.C. Guard did not respond to emailed inquiries from Military Times.
Military Times’ Meghann Myers contributed reporting to this story.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.