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Army Secretary explains why Nat’l Guard didn’t immediately respond to Capitol storming

National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 08, 2021

On Thursday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy detailed the D.C. National Guard’s efforts to respond to chaos at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, and said bad estimates of the crowds coming to the city made it difficult to properly prepare for the unrest that took place.

“Getting back to the pure intelligence, it was all over the board,” McCarthy said in a Pentagon phone briefing reported by the Washington Examiner. McCarthy cited crowd size estimates that ranged from 2,000 to 80,000 people, for planned protests in support of President Donald Trump’s challenges to the 2020 U.S. election results.

“It was very hard to make that determination of what we were dealing with,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy noted the Army relies on intelligence assessments from local law enforcement to assess what forces may be needed for a civil disturbance response.

McCarthy also said “Yesterday was a very short fuse” compared to protests that spread across the U.S. last summer following the death of George Floyd. McCarthy noted unrest over Floyd’s death started in Minnesota and spread to other states over a period of days, giving local authorities more time to gauge the level of response needed.

While National Guard troops in America’s 50 states can be activated by their respective governors, locals authorities in Washington D.C. have to request the Army to active the D.C. National Guard (DCNG).

Trump had called on his supporters for weeks to travel to D.C. in protest of a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to certify electoral college votes in the 2020 election. During the planned rallies in D.C., demonstrators pressed into the Capitol, forcing the the building to go on lockdown and delaying the vote certification process.

Some 340 DCNG troops had been activated in the days before the expected protests and at least four different groups had obtained permits for rallies in the city that day.

The initial contingent of the DCNG that was activated for the protests was unarmed and was primarily assigned to help cordon off streets.

DCNG spokesman Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper told the Washington Examiner, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had insisted the guard troops not be armed.

“We’ve explicitly been told there is no weaponry of any kind for this mission,” Clapper said.

The crowds of demonstrators that arrived at the Capitol at around 2 p.m. Wednesday, reportedly overwhelmed a Capitol police force of around 2,000 officers. That’s when McCarthy said he received the call for DCNG support.

As the call came up for DCNG support, the Washington Examiner reports that the unarmed DCNG members that had previously been activated had to return to their armory to equip themselves with protective gear for riot control purposes, as well as batons and shields.

According to a Thursday Pentagon statement Thursday, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said immediately called up the full 1,100-member force of the D.C. Guard.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that Trump had ordered National Guard troops and federal agents to respond to the Capitol. In a televised statement on Thursday, Trump also said “I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.”

McCarthy said within two hours of the call, the DCNG’s full 1,100 remember force was equipped and in position at the Capitol.

While McCarthy said the full complement of DCNG troops was ready within two hours, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said offers to activate his state’s National Guard troops were repeatedly denied.

At a Thursday news conference, Hogan said, “I was ready, willing, and able to immediately deploy [the National Guard] to the Capitol. However, we were repeatedly denied approval to do so.”

Hogan said an hour and a half transpired between his offers to send support and McCarthy calling him back to accept the offer.

A statement by the Army Secretary, provided to American Military News Friday, states McCarthy first spoke with Gov. Hogan at 4:40 p.m. on Wednesday and “thanked him and accepted his offer.”

The same statement said National Guard Buraeu chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson spoke with the Maryland National Guard’s adjutant general, who said about 100 guardsmen from the state could be ready to respond in 8 to 10 hours, while another 150 to 200 guardsmen could be available at a later time.

The statement said McCarthy also spoke with and accepted support from the governors of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey throughout Wednesday and into Thursday morning and additional National Guard support from New York and Delaware was also approved.

The statement also said the Department of Defense requires permission from the Secretary of Defense for out-of-state Guard units to enter the National Capitol Region.

Up to 6,200 National Guard troops from various states have been called into the city.