The National Guard will extend its mission at the U.S. Capitol into May, the Defense Department said Tuesday, as congressional officials weigh how to secure the complex going forward.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved extending the Guard’s presence in Washington through May 23, after the U.S. Capitol Police requested continued support. The Guard’s mission previously was slated to end on Friday.
Capitol Police formally requested the Guard extension last week, saying threats against members of Congress during the first two months of this year were up 93% compared with last year.
“The National Guard has played a critical role to the Department’s enhanced security posture,’’ the Capitol Police said in a statement after the Pentagon’s announcement.
As of this week, just under 5,200 Guards troops were deployed in Washington from more than 30 states and territories, defense officials said Monday.
After Friday, nearly 2,300 Guard members will remain in Washington due to the extension, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday. Defense officials will work with the Capitol Police to “incrementally reduce the National Guard footprint as conditions allow,” Mr. Kirby said in a statement.
The Guard members will be in and around the Capitol complex, a defense official said. They have been guarding the complex since Jan. 6, after Capitol Police leaders called for their help as a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol.
Law-enforcement agencies have warned about the possibility of violence from domestic extremists following the assault on the Capitol.
Some lawmakers from both parties have said they oppose making permanent the most obtrusive security measures implemented over the past two months. Miles of tall security fencing have drawn criticism from lawmakers and area residents.
A task force reviewing security at the Capitol found that inadequate staffing, equipment, and training hobbled the Capitol Police’s response to the Jan. 6 riot, according to its report released this week. To secure the Capitol, the task force recommended adding hundreds more police officers, creating a rapid-reaction force and installing retractable fencing, among other overhauls.
Roughly 26,000 Guard members from all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia were deployed following the Jan. 6 attack to secure Washington through the Jan. 20 inauguration. Since then, their presence has been gradually reduced.
—Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this article.
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Appeared in the March 10, 2021, print edition as ‘National Guard to Remain at Capitol.’
Source: WSJ – US News