The National Guard presence in Washington, D.C., will reportedly end up costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars thanks to newly extended orders to keep them from going home at least until May.
The Guard’s lingering mission, which was extended this week from Friday to May 23, will cost another $111 million in addition to the $410 million that has already been spent since they descended on Washington after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to The Wall Street Journal.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the Capitol Police’s request to keep about 2,300 guardsmen at the Capitol through May 23. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the Department of Defense will be footing the bill, which is less than was originally estimated.
The continued National Guard lockdown of the Capitol has drawn bipartisan condemnation, with several lawmakers claiming the show of force is unnecessary and too costly.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) released a joint statement earlier this week in which they said, “As the U.S. Capitol Police continues to build its personnel capacity, there is no doubt that some level of support from the National Guard should remain in the National Capital region to respond to credible threats against the Capitol. However, the present security posture is not warranted at this time.”
“In addition, we cannot ignore the financial costs associated with this prolonged deployment, nor can we turn a blind eye to the effects it will soon have on the National Guard’s overall readiness,” they further said. “We appreciate our guardsmen answering the call to protect the Capitol, but it’s time for us to review what level of security is required, so they can return home to their families and communities.”
The number of troops has decreased since its peak level of 25,000 during President Joe Biden’s inauguration, but continued threats are reportedly troubling enough to warrant their continued presence, according to the Capitol Police. “It is very much about a capacity assistance to the Capitol Police as they begin to flesh out and develop what they’re going to need long-term to deal with a new reality on Capitol Hill,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.
An email obtained by local Fox 5 revealed there is talk that the Guard will remain in some capacity through most of 2021. As The Daily Wire reported:
The National Guard members who have been patrolling the sensitive areas on Capitol Hill since the riot last month might have to remain through most of 2021.
The National Security Council asked the Department of Defense to reach out to Capitol Police regarding how best to plan for National Guard presence after mid-March, according to an internal email obtained by local Fox 5.
Robert G. Salesses, who is the assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security, wrote in the email: “If it’s not possible to sustain at the current level with [National Guard] personnel, we need to establish the number of [National Guard] personnel (DCNG and out-of-state) we can sustain for an extended period – at least through Fall 2021 – and understand additional options for providing [Department of Defense] support, to include use of reserve personnel, as well as active component.”