Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson was opposed to extending the National Guard’s deployment in Washington D.C., but was ultimately overruled by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who decided this week to stretch the deployment by more than two months.
Fox reporter Gillian Turner tweeted a photo of Hokanson’s March 4 memo on Thursday. “Efforts to date have not secured enough volunteers among supporting states to meet the USCP request of 2,280 soldiers, nor Option B of 1000 soldiers,” Hokanson’s memo begins.
Hokanson noted there has been “unprecedented demand” for National Guard troops around the country throughout the past year. National Guard troops have been activated for missions relating to COVID-19, civil disturbance missions and natural disasters and Hokanson said recent efforts to have the National Guard support COVID-19 vaccinations have also drawn troops away.
With the shortage in available troops, Hokanson said the National Guard has had to man its mission in D.C. with volunteers.
“To date, only 500 have volunteered to extend through the draft [request for authorization for a deployment extension] end date despite our best efforts to marshal more volunteers,” Hokanson wrote.
“I am concerned that the continued indefinite nature of this requirement may also impede our ability to man future missions as both adjutants general and guardsmen alike may be skeptical about committing to future endeavors,” Hokanson added.
Hokanson also said calling on the support of civilian law enforcement agencies “seems highly preferable to requesting involuntary mobilizations under the current circumstances.”
Fox News reported Hokanson’s memo circulated within the White House National Security Council over the past week.
Around 26,000 National Guard troops were initially deployed to D.C. in January, after demonstrators entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, clashed with police, and forced lawmakers to put a congressional session on hold.
The D.C. troop deployment saw its peak during Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, after which troops have gradually left the city. Around 5,000 troops have remained in D.C. and were set to conclude their deployment on Friday, March 12. On Tuesday evening, Austin approved the plan to keep about 2,300 troops in D.C. through May 23.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the extended deployment is not entirely based on assessments about new threats in D.C. but “about assisting and supporting capabilities that the Capitol Police may now lack.”
The extension also comes amid complaints from lawmakers and state governors about the continued need for troop deployment and concerns about the conditions troops have been exposed to while in D.C.
In January, Republican Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas abruptly pulled all of their state’s troops from D.C. after thousands of troops were kicked out of a Senate office building and forced to shelter in a parking garage. Troops have also reported problems being served inedible food while in D.C., including undercook meat, moldy bread and reportedly even metal shavings and worms. At least 50 troops have reportedly been sickened by the food catering while deployed in D.C.
On Thursday, military officials announced a Guardsman deployed in D.C. had died due to a medical emergency, but did not elaborate on the cause of death.