Bipartisan lawmakers and the main advocacy group for the National Guard are calling on the Defense Department to end the mission protecting the U.S. Capitol, as about 2,300 Guard personnel remain on duty.
Three days before the mission was slated to end on March 12, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III extended the mission through May 23 at the request of U.S. Capitol Police. The Guard personnel will “fill some of the gaps” in protecting the Capitol complex, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
The decision to extend the mission reportedly came against the advice of National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, who in a memo wrote that the Guard could not secure enough volunteers to fill the needs.
“I am concerned that the continued indefinite nature of this requirement may also impede our ability to man future missions as both adjutants general and Guardsmen alike may be skeptical about committing to future endeavors,” Hokanson wrote, according to Fox News.
The National Guard Association of the United States, in a March 12 statement, echoed Hokanson’s concerns, saying the inability to find enough volunteers is a “reflection of the continuing demands of training and missions back in the states on a predominantly part-time force that must always balance military duties with civilian employers and families.”
Guard personnel need to leave Washington, D.C., and go home to their families, employers, and regular obligations. “They have completed their mission,” NGAUS wrote. “They have made us all proud.”
In a March 11 statement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) wrote that they have been “deeply troubled” by the security around the Capitol more than two months after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The current posture is not needed, though some Guard personnel could still provide support if there are credible threats.
“We cannot ignore the financial costs associated with this prolonged deployment, nor can we turn a blind eye to the effects it will soon have on the National Guard’s overall readiness,” the lawmakers wrote. “We appreciate our Guardsmen answering the call to protect the Capitol, but it’s time for us to review what level of security is required, so they can return home to their families and communities.”
The Senate Sergeant at Arms on March 15 announced that some of the security posture at the Capitol complex would change, with temporary fencing beginning to come down because of the lack of a credible threat, according to USA Today.