Top Armed Services Republicans oppose National Guard quick reaction force for DC
A pair of top Republicans is opposing the creation of a National Guard quick reaction force for Washington, D.C., the funding for which is included in a bill to bulk up security at the Capitol following the Jan. 6 attack.
In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), respectively the ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, said they “firmly oppose creating a D.C. National Guard Quick Reaction Force.”
“We cannot and should not militarize the security of the Capitol Complex,” they said. “Further, Congress has held precisely no hearings to examine the creation of a Quick Reaction Force to weigh costs, benefits and fundamental questions about its nature and responsibilities.”
A $1.9 billion Capitol security funding bill, unveiled Friday by House Democrats and expected to be voted on in the lower chamber this week, includes $200 million to establish a standing quick reaction force within the D.C. National Guard dedicated to responding to crises in the district.
A summary of the bill from the House Appropriations Committee said the quick reaction force would “augment” Capitol Police and would be the “ground force equivalent of the 113th Wing within the District of Columbia Air National Guard at Joint Base Andrews, which defends National Capital Region airspace.”
The creation of a quick reaction force dedicated to D.C. was one of the recommendations made in a security review led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré in the wake of the Capitol attack. Honoré’s report suggested the force could either be composed of National Guardsmen or law enforcement officers.
In their statement Wednesday, Rogers and Inhofe argued a quick reaction force of civilian law enforcement officers would have “numerous benefits” compared to one within the National Guard.
“It improves the range of law enforcement capabilities, streamlines operations beyond the Capitol and would likely cost much less than tapping the National Guard for this purpose,” they said.
Thousands of Guardsmen have been shoring up security at the Capitol since supporters of former President Trump stormed the building while lawmakers were certifying President Biden’s victory in the November election. About 2,300 Guardsmen remain at the Capitol, with the end of the deployment set at May 23 as of today.
The extended deployment of Guardsmen at the Capitol has garnered bipartisan criticism, including from Rogers and Inhofe, as unjustified by known threats.
But Rogers previously indicated he could support a National Guard quick reaction force stationed off the Capitol complex.
“One of the things they would like to see is a rapid response National Guard unit, which I’m fine with being remote from the campus. And I would support that, but that’s about as close as we need as having guardsmen around the Capitol,” Rogers told reporters in March.
“So I’m going to be anxious to see where they land on this issue with the Guardsmen for a more long-term solution,” he added. “I hope it’s with this rapid response force that I just described with a full time, D.C. contingent that is off campus that can be called on when needed, and they can be there in a matter of minutes. But we don’t need them standing around like they are right now toting rifles.”
But in Wednesday’s statement, Rogers and Inhofe pointed to “complex statutory restrictions” governing the use of uniformed military in D.C. and at the Capitol, saying there is “good reason” for that.
“The National Guard went above and beyond to protect the Capitol since January 6, but it’s time they return home and focus on their core mission,” they said. “If Democrat leadership wants to spend an additional $200 million on the National Guard, it would be better spent on rebuilding Guard readiness that suffered as a result of this over-long deployment to Capitol Hill.”
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