On Monday, then-acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller announced the Department of Defense would work with the FBI to vet the thousands of U.S. service members deployed to Washington D.C. to support President Joe Biden’s inauguration. While Miller announced the vetting process, he said there was no intelligence indicating an insider threat within the ranks.
“As is normal for military support to large security events, the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C.,” Miller said. “While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital. This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events.”
Miller delivered the remarks as 25,000 National Guard troops arrived in the city to support the inauguration. An additional 2,750 active-duty military troops were also deployed in D.C. in support of the inauguration.
Miller’s Monday comments came a day before 12 National Guard troops were removed from inauguration support missions after the vetting process identified flagged questionable behavior among those 12 individuals.
Reports earlier on Tuesday indicated two of the service members removed from the inauguration support mission had ties to right-wing militia groups but during a press conference National Guard Bureau Cheif Gen. Daniel Hokanson said “All I would say with those two individuals is inappropriate comments or texts that were put out there.”
Pentagon spokesman Jonothan Hoffman said the other 10 individuals removed from inauguration support missions had been flagged for questionable behavior unrelated to the inauguration.
“I think as General Hokanson mentioned, we have two individuals that identified — had made inappropriate comments or texts. Those two individuals were removed; I’ll note, one of those was flagged by — within the command — and then we have another group of individuals that have been flagged in the vetting process for a number of different reasons — like I said, unrelated to the events here.”
Neither Hokanson or Hoffman provided details about the questionable texts or other questionable behavior that the vetting process had flagged. Neither official linked the removal of the 12 servicemembers to any potential insider threats.
Hoffman said the National Guard was removing the 12 servicemembers out of an abundance of caution.
“We’re not asking questions right now, we’re not asking questions of people who are flagged, we are, out of an abundance of caution, taking action and immediately removing them from — from the line of duty at the Capitol and the events taking place and then we will address them, whether it’s through law enforcement, if necessary, or through their own chain of command.”
Hokanson said, “I’m not concerned as a large part of our organization — if you look at 25,000, we’ve had 12 identified and some of those, they’re just looking into. It may be unrelated to [the inauguration], but we want to make sure, out of an abundance of caution, as I stated earlier, that we do the right thing until that gets cleared up.”
National Guard troops have been tasked with helping support security for the inauguration, protecting local property and infrastructure during the events and manning checkpoints for streets with traffic restrictions in the city. Many Guard troops are armed.