The National Guard will be a force of last resort. Law enforcement will take the lead and be the force of choice should it be necessary, Acting Army Secretary John E. Whitley, said referring to keeping the peace and allowing for peaceful protests in Washington, D.C.
Whitley; Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; and Army Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, held a Pentagon news briefing today.
“I’d like to thank our National Guard soldiers and airmen for the hard work, swift response and steadfast dedication. They’re committed to ensuring that our capital remains secure. I’m incredibly proud of our airmen and soldiers serving in support of local and federal law enforcement activities. This mission shows the breadth, flexibility and resolve of the National Guard and the sacrifice and service that provides to our nation,” Whitely said.
The Guard has been requested to continue supporting federal law enforcement agencies with about 7,000 personnel for the coming weeks. That presence will likely draw down to about 5,000 by mid-March, he said.
The Guard has received four requests for follow-on assistance from federal and municipal partners. The requests have come from the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington D.C. All four requests have been approved, he said.
National Guard service members will provide a variety of support, including security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics and safety support to these organizations, Whitely said.
“National Guard members will be postured to meet the requirements of the supported civil authorities up to and including protective equipment and arming if necessary,” he added.
Hokanson said there are currently about 13,000 National Guard troops in the District of Columbia, primarily conducting security missions in support of district and federal partners.
The logistics involved in moving 25,000 people from every state and territory to the District in less than two weeks and supporting them is unprecedented, he mentioned.
“It speaks volumes about the support we received from our governors and adjutants general. It also speaks to the investment America has made in the National Guard’s ability to respond whenever and wherever we are needed,” Hokanson added.
Walker thanked the Guard members and their families, law enforcement and the people of the District, the latter for their “cooperation, understanding and patience. We know we inconvenience them, but they understand the reason.”