12 U.S. Army National Guard troops have been removed from the mission supporting Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden after they were determined via law enforcement vetting to have “questionable behavior.”
Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman confirmed in a press conference on Tuesday that the 12 service members were removed “out of an abundance of caution” after law enforcement flagged them. Of the 12, 10 members were removed for questionable behavior flags, while two members were removed for “inappropriate comments or texts.”
Hoffman said that law enforcement flags look for “any questionable behavior, not just extremism,” including behavior that “may be unrelated” to the inauguration events. He could not reveal what behaviors flagged the service members.
Due to the limited time for investigation, service members are automatically removed from the mission if any current or past behavior is flagged, and an investigation is conducted afterward. Later determinations may be made to decide if the behavior warrants separation from the military.
Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau said that flagged service members’ behaviors would be investigated either through law enforcement or chain of command for resolution.
“Extremism is not tolerated in any branch of the United States military,” Hokanson said during the press conference.
Two U.S. officials told the Associated Press earlier on Tuesday that the FBI did not find evidence of a plot against Biden, however. The groups, or any further details about the members and their alleged ties to the group, were not identified.
The 12 service members were among the 25,000 National Guard troops authorized by the Department of Defense to deploy to Washington, D.C. in support of efforts to protect the upcoming Biden inauguration.
All 25,000 troops are being vetted by the DOD and FBI for fears of a potential insider attack, extremist ties, and other suspicious activity.
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller confirmed the vetting in a statement on Monday, saying, “the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C.,” adding, “we appreciate the support of the FBI in assisting with this task.”
Miller noted that vetting is standard procedure when significant reinforcements are provided for large security events.
“While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital,” Miller said.
Hokanson previously praised the efforts to identify potential threats in the ranks.
“If there’s any indication that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing things that are extremist views, it’s either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with the chain of command immediately,” he said.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy also confirmed that officials are looking out for potential threats, even warning commanders to be on the lookout.
“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said.
In addition to 25,000 National Guard troops deployed to DC for the inauguration, another 2,750 active duty troops were deployed to support the inauguration.
In a statement to American Military News, a Pentagon official said about 2,000 of the active-duty troops are there for ceremonial support, such as marching bands and honor guards. The remaining 750 are deploying for “contingency support,” providing various explosives and hazardous material handling and emergency medical expertise.