Defense secretary pledges Pentagon support to help 'dominate the battlespace' amid unrest

By MISSY RYAN AND DAN LAMOTHE | The Washington Post | Published: June 1, 2020

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday pledged Pentagon support to help "dominate the battlespace" in reference to authorities' response to nationwide unrest that has erupted after the killing of George Floyd.

"I think the sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal," Esper said during the call President Donald Trump held with governors, an audio expert of which was published by The Washington Post. "We need to dominate the battlespace."

Esper was among the officials Trump asked to address state leaders. During the call, the president described governors' response to protests triggered by the Floyd's death at the hands of Minnesota police and other recent incidents of police violence as "weak."

Esper said the Defense Department stood "in full support" of state authorities and federal law authorities. He said that 17,000 National Guard deployed in 29 states but that most of the states had deployed fewer than 200 people.

The Pentagon chief said that he, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and the head of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Jospeh Lengyel, would help mobilize National Guard troops as needed.

While the president has the power to put National Guard troops under federal control or order active-duty military to take part in the response to upheaval, neither of those steps has yet occurred.

Trump urged governors who had not already done so to call up National Guard troops to help respond to protest and property destruction.

"You're making yourselves look like fools," he said.

The Washington Post's Paul Sonne contributed to this report.

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