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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.
The agencies are scheduled to meet to discuss the issues next Wednesday.
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.”
Maj. Matt Murphy, a spokesman for the National Guard, told DCist that the current plan is for guardsmen to support federal agencies through mid-March, as was previously reported. “We are providing assistance such as security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety support to state, district and federal agencies,” Murphy added. “There are still approximately 6,000 personnel on duty.”
The cost of keeping the National Guard in Washington, D.C., until March is slated to cost half a billion dollars, according to reports. Of the approximately 26,000 National Guard soldiers who were present in the lead-up to President Joe Biden’s inauguration, numbers have decreased to around 7,000, with about 5,000 planning to remain until at least the spring.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who is the District of Columbia’s non-voting representative to Congress, fielded questions on Thursday from District residents regarding how long military presence and razor-topped fences will remain in their city. Straight answers were not forthcoming at the virtual town hall.
Norton told DCist, however, that she preferred a lingering National Guard presence to the permanent installation of a fence around the Capitol and National Mall, which has been proposed by the acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman. “Given what we are seeing or what the FBI and others are seeing in the chatter, I think that having human beings here as opposed to the proposal to put up permanent fencing is much to be desired,” Norton said.
Members of the Capitol Police issued a vote of no confidence in Pittman and others among the force’s top officials, CNN reported Saturday.
Some Republican lawmakers are unhappy with the continued presence of the National Guard in the capital, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who wrote in a Fox News op-ed: “I sit on the Intelligence Committee, but I’m aware of no specific, credible threat reporting — as distinguished from aspirational, uncoordinated bluster on the internet — that justifies this continued troop presence. Thus, I believe the rest of these soldiers should also go home to their families and civilian jobs.”