House Armed Services leaders: Level of security at Capitol ‘not warranted at this time’
The leaders of the House Armed Services Committee from both parties called for a “measured drawdown” of National Guardsmen at the U.S. Capitol after the Pentagon extended the deployment for another two months.
In a joint statement Thursday, committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said they were “deeply troubled” that “the seat of our nation’s democracy remains heavily protected by guardsmen and surrounded by a perimeter fence” more than two months after the Jan. 6 attack that prompted the bulked up security.
“As the U.S. Capitol Police continues to build its personnel capacity, there is no doubt that some level of support from the National Guard should remain in the National Capital Region to respond to credible threats against the Capitol,” they said. “However, the present security posture is not warranted at this time.”
The statement comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this week approved a request from Capitol Police to keep about 2,300 guardsmen at the complex through May 23.
The deployment had been scheduled to end Friday. While the extension keeps troops at the Capitol for another two months, it roughly halves the 5,100 guardsmen there now.
In their statement, Smith and Rogers express concerns about costs and readiness effects of the continued deployment.
“In addition, we cannot ignore the financial costs associated with this prolonged deployment, nor can we turn a blind eye to the effects it will soon have on the National Guard’s overall readiness,” they said. “We appreciate our guardsmen answering the call to protect the Capitol, but it’s time for us to review what level of security is required, so they can return home to their families and communities.”
The Pentagon has not provided a cost estimate for the extension, but previously said the cost through March 12 would be roughly $480 million.
Thousands of Guardsmen from around the country flooded into the nation’s capital after the Jan. 6 attack by supporters of former President Trump while Congress was certifying President Biden’s victory in the November election.
The guardsmen were originally only meant to bulk up security for Biden’s inauguration, but the deployment was extended afterward over continued security concerns.
The security concerns were in part related to the QAnon conspiracy theory’s mistaken belief that Trump would be inaugurated on March 4, the original date of presidential inaugurations until 1933, when the 20th Amendment moved it to Jan. 20. March 4 came and went without incident.
Neither the Pentagon nor Capitol Police has detailed the threats warranting an extension into May. But the Pentagon has said Austin viewed the request as “valid” and that the National Guardsmen are meant to increase Capitol Police’s “capacity.”
“It is very much about a capacity assistance to the Capitol Police as they begin to flesh out and develop what they’re going to need long-term to deal with a new reality on Capitol Hill,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.