In the aftermath of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, questions are being raised about why the District of Columbia National Guard played such a limited role as civilian law enforcement officers were outnumbered and overrun.

The questions also highlight concern about the potential for violence to erupt again next week when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated at the Capitol, and whether the Guard should play a bigger or different role.

Use of the Guard, particularly in Washington, is a complicated process, tangled in an array of jurisdictional issues between city and federal agencies. The original plans called for having a small National Guard presence with a limited role.

When rioters ransacked the Capitol on Wednesday, it wasn’t easy to quickly pivot to having a larger, more muscular force capable of backing up the embattled Capitol Police. Top city, defense, Capitol and law enforcement officials had to figure out what was needed and where it was needed. They also struggled to get the required approvals and then get the Guard members instructed, equipped and on their way.

A look at what slowed down the Guard’s response and its role in the run-up to inauguration:


Bottom line: It was a planning problem complicated by a logistical challenge. Once officials determined that more Guard were needed than original envisioned, it took time to put them in position.

About 340 members of the D.C. National Guard had been requested by Mayor Muriel Bowser. Because the District is not a state, the Defense Department has authority over the D.C. Guard, and that control is delegated to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The Pentagon approved Bowser’s request for Guard troops to support D.C. police for the protests.

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Based on the agreement with D.C, the Guard members were deployed early last week to about 30 checkpoints and a half-dozen Metro entrances. The agreement stipulated that their deployment was restricted to traffic control and crowd issues, and they specifically were not to be armed or in riot gear.

The Capitol Police, who have authority over the Capitol grounds, repeatedly declined support from the Guard before Wednesday. Officials say they did not expect a huge, violent protest.

When the riot began Wednesday, the couple hundred D.C. Guard members already on the streets needed an explicit request from federal authorities to go to the Capitol, since that is federal jurisdiction. The Guard also needed approval from the Pentagon and new orders to change their mission. They then had to return to their armory to get riot gear and a briefing on what they would be doing at the Capitol.

The deployment discussions triggered complaints that the Pentagon delayed the Guard deployment. But defense officials defended the need for a careful, deliberate process.

“It’s important that in the midst of a dire situation we have a clear plan and understand the task, purpose, and role of our Guardsman before we employ them,” said Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, director of the Army staff. “Creating shared understanding will prevent a complex and …read more

Source:: News Headlines


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