National Guard readiness will suffer if funds for Capitol security are not restored, Army secretary says
WASHINGTON — The National Guard’s ability to train will take a hit if $450 million spent to provide security to the Capitol after the Jan. 6 riot is not recouped, the Army’s top civilian leader told senators Tuesday.
“If we are not able to cover that [bill] right now, the Army Guard is basically in a situation where they are concerned about their ability to pay for training for the rest of this year,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said during a budget hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subpanel for defense.
Aviation and ground vehicle readiness at Guard units across the country will be affected if the money is not returned, Wormuth said. Training exercises have already been pushed back due to National Guard deployments to the U.S.-Mexico border and the Capitol, as well as missions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, she added.
“All of that regularly scheduled training has been postponed and now is at risk of not being able to be funded, and so it's definitely a concern and something that will impact our Guard all around the nation,” Wormuth said.
Subcommittee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he is “getting nervous” over the odds of a supplemental appropriations bill’s approval that would provide $1.9 billion for the costs incurred to defend the Capitol.
The security funding measure passed the House in late May in a close vote, and it now heads for a vote in the Senate.
A mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6 attempted to disrupt the certification of the results of November’s presidential election and broke into the Capitol.
Immediately after the deadly riot, there were as many as 26,000 Guard troops in Washington to support federal law enforcement agencies with security, communications, medical evacuations, logistics and safety. The last of the Guard troops deployed to Washington — a force of about 2,300 personnel — returned home May 23.
The security funding bill includes $200 million for the District of Columbia Air National Guard to create a quick-reaction force of service members ready to respond to threats on Capitol Hill.
Tester asked Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, at the Tuesday hearing if he supports the proposal and if he thinks it is appropriate for the Army.
“Law enforcement should be conducted by law enforcement agencies and the military should be the last resort when it comes to law enforcement,” McConville said.
Specifically, the provision would create “a ground force equivalent of the 113th Wing within the District of Columbia Air National Guard at Joint Base Andrews” in Maryland, which protects Washington’s regional airspace.
Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson and retired Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the National Guard Association’s president and chairman, said in a statement at the time that the proposal was announced that they did not support the move.
Such a unit “would be another personnel-intensive requirement on our force as well as a detractor from the Guard’s main mission of serving as the primary reserve of the Army and Air Force,” they said.