Pentagon approves extending Guard deployment at Capitol

Guard members will remain until May 23 at the request of Capitol Police officials

By John Harney and Billy House
Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has approved the continued deployment of the National Guard at the U.S. Capitol through at least May 23.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request by the U.S. Capitol Police, according to a statement on Tuesday night by John Kirby, a Defense Department spokesman. About 5,000 National Guard troops remain on duty in Washington. The deployment, which began after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, was set to end by Friday. But last week, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman asked for an extension, without giving a specific timeframe.

National Guard stand guard at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 4, 2021.
National Guard stand guard at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Nearly 2,300 National Guard personnel will continue the support mission,” Kirby said in the statement. “This represents a reduction of nearly 50% of the current support force. This decision was made after a thorough review of the request and after close consideration of its potential impact on readiness.”

Kirby said in the statement that “during this extended period” Pentagon officials and the Capitol Police will discuss ways to “incrementally reduce the National Guard footprint as conditions allow.”

The Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.

Law enforcement officials from various federal agencies have said that there are continuing security threats. In addition to the troops, a barrier of fencing and razor wire was established around the complex after a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential race.

The Capitol Police last week cited an escalation in threats against lawmakers during the first two months of this year as a reason in their request for continued support from the Guard

On Monday, lawmakers received closed-door briefings on a review that calls for security improvements to prevent another attack.

Recommendations in the draft report include hiring more Capitol Police officers, streamlining the force’s command structure, improving its intelligence capability, and upgrading fences and security surveillance. It even suggests restoring horse-mounted patrols to the Capitol complex that were disbanded in 2005.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore to lead the task force that conducted the review.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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