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Pentagon authorizes up to 25,000 troops to protect nation’s capital

The U.S. Capitol is seen through a security fence on Jan. 12, 2021.

ROBERT H. REID/STARS AND STRIPES

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has authorized up to 25,000 service members to protect the nation’s capital ahead of the 59th presidential inauguration, the National Guard announced Friday.

National Guard troops are deploying from all 50 states, three territories, as well as Washington, D.C., according to a National Guard Bureau news release.

The announcement comes a day after Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy authorized up to 21,000 National Guard members to come to Washington to support federal agencies with security for the inauguration Wednesday.

Last week, supporters of President Donald Trump marched on the U.S. Capitol following his speech outside the White House that reiterated claims of a stolen election. A mob of Trump supporters attacked police and broke into the Capitol Building and vandalized it, and sent congressional lawmakers into lockdown. The riot delayed Congress from the official certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, but lawmakers returned hours later and approved the election results.

The hourslong siege of the Capitol resulted in at least five deaths, including a Capitol police officer who was injured during the melee.

The buildup of troops in the city is due to fears of further violence ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

By the end of Friday, the National Guard anticipates there will be 10,000 troops in Washington, according to a Guard official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that they were expecting to reach that number by Saturday.

The D.C. National Guard, which is overseeing the service members while they are deployed to Washington, would only say the troop level is still 7,000.

McCarthy has also approved some of those troops to carry service firearms such as M4 carbines and M9 pistols for self-protection.

Troops have been given instructions on rules of engagement should there be protests in the city. However, officials on Friday did not reveal what those instructions are.

Matt Miller, the U.S. Secret Service agent in charge of the Washington field office, said Guard members are being given cards stating the rules of the federal agency to which they are assigned.

“I know for instance that there is a detail of National Guard Bureau personnel up at the United States Capitol. They are complying with, and will comport with, the United States Capitol police’s use of force model. Most of the use of force models throughout the federal and local law enforcement community are very, very similar,” he said.

Kenney.Caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter @caitlinmkenney