WASHINGTON – The Pentagon announced Thursday that it has streamlined the approval process for the urgent use of National Guard forces in the District of Columbia, after months of study following the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol .
The changes give the Secretary of Defense exclusive authority to approve requests that would involve DC National Guard personnel involved in civil law enforcement or that require their deployment within 48 hours, the press secretary said. Pentagon John Kirby in a written statement. This approval authority had previously been delegated to the Secretary of the Army, the service’s highest civilian official.
The changes aim to better prepare the Pentagon to deal with urgent requests for law enforcement support from civilian authorities. After the January riot, the Pentagon was criticized by some for being slow to respond to requests for assistance from the Guard, although a general examination by a Department of Defense inspector found that senior officials in the defense had acted appropriately before and during the riot.
The use of National Guard troops in the national capital is complicated by the fact that the usual chain of command headed by a governor does not apply because the district is not a state. Thus, the commanding general of the DC Guard reports to the president, although an executive decree of 1969 delegated control to the Secretary of Defense, who then delegated authority to the Secretary of the Army.
Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin changed the previous arrangement so that the Defense Secretary is the sole approving authority in certain circumstances. The Secretary of the Army remains authorized to control the operations of the guard in the district and to consider requests from the district government for the use of the guard in the city for purposes unrelated to law enforcement and in non-emergency situations.
Austin said law enforcement activities include crowd control, traffic control, search, seizure, arrest or temporary detention.
It was not immediately clear how this change in policy could have affected response time on January 6, when a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump quickly and violently stormed the Capitol Police, who was assisted by the Metropolitan Police Department, and discontinued the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Lawmakers ran for their lives as rioters scrambled through the windows and shattered doors of the Capitol.
Prior to the riot, then Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy dealt with requests to deploy guards to the district, initially from the DC Guard Commander. McCarthy acted in consultation with senior Pentagon officials, including Christopher Miller, then Acting Secretary of Defense, and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Last spring, Austin ordered a review of how the Defense Department handles requests for support in the National Capital Region, including approval authorities, application processes, planning, available forces , command relationships, personnel support and training exercises.
Based on this review, Austin amended the 1969 arrangement for handling certain requests for district guard deployment, and it clarified the process by which federal and local agencies request assistance for them. planned and urgent events in the district, Kirby said.
“By clarifying and refining the application process, including describing the information required to assess requests from federal and local partners, the department will be able to respond to requests efficiently, quickly and effectively,” Kirby said.