Guard Prepares to Quit Capitol, 5 Months After January Riot

The National Guard’s mission in Washington, D.C., is coming to an end, the Pentagon announced.

“These Airmen and Soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people’s business could continue unabated,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement. “They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution.”

More than 25,000 Guard members from all 54 states and territories deployed to the nation’s capital following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which left five people dead and delayed the counting of electoral votes, the final step to ratifying the 2020 presidential election. Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said on May 24 there are still about 1,000 Guard members in the Capital but could not say how soon they would all go home.

Although the Pentagon has extended the deployment several times at the request of various agencies—the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service, Capitol Police, and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police—the number of troops deployed to the region has steadily declined. With no additional requests to extend, the dwindling number will gradually drop to zero.

House leaders released a $1.9 billion security supplemental earlier this month that would give the District of Columbia Air National Guard $200,000 to set up a quick-reaction force that would stand ready to respond to threats to Capitol Hill. The QRF was one of the recommendations made during a security review of the Capitol, led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, earlier this year.

But the Pentagon has no plan to put in place a quick reaction force right now, Kirby said, explaining that the Pentagon is still reviewing recommendations made by Honoré and his team.

“It’s been a trying but telling year for the National Guard,” Austin said. “Between natural disasters, civil unrest, and an ongoing pandemic, our Guardsmen and women have been tested time and time again. And each time, they have performed magnificently. So magnificently, in fact, that it would be all too easy to take their service— and that of their incredible families—for granted,” he continued. “We won’t do that, of course, because we know we will continue to call on them in times of need. As these troops depart for home and a much-deserved reunion with loved ones, I hope they do so knowing how much the nation appreciates their service and sacrifice—and that of their families and employers. I hope they know how very proud we are of them.”