Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard for Capitol deployment

Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard for Capitol deployment
© Greg Nash

Failure to reimburse the National Guard for its months-long deployment protecting the Capitol would be detrimental to the guard's readiness, top Pentagon leaders warned Thursday.

“It will impact their ability in the near term to be able to train and adequately prepare the guard for its future, for its current responsibilities,” Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBlinken calls US-India relationship 'vital' during official visit Senate panel advances Navy secretary nominee Biden zigzags on China policy MORE told the Senate Appropriations Committee when asked what the effects will be if Congress does not approve funding before its August recess.

Testifying alongside Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyWatchdog warns US will repeat mistakes of Afghanistan Adaptability remains a constant — even as the 'character of war' changes Afghan civilian casualties hit record high amid US withdrawal MORE added that a lack of reimbursement for the guard will have a “significant negative impact on their ability to maintain their readiness.”

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Thousands of National Guardsmen from around the country deployed to Washington, D.C., for nearly five months to shore up security at the Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection by supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE.

At the height of the deployment, nearly 26,000 guardsmen were deployed to the nation’s capital from all 50 states, three territories and D.C. That dropped to 2,300 troops in March before all remaining guardsmen went home in May.

The cost of the deployment was estimated at $521 million.

A House-passed bill to bolster Capitol security included funding to reimburse the guard for the deployment.

But the Senate is still crafting its own version of a Capitol security bill, so the guard has yet to be reimbursed for the deployment.

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In addition to the Capitol deployment, the National Guard has been stretched thin over the last year helping during the COVD-19 pandemic, including by administering tests and vaccines.

Guardsmen were also deployed around the country to help local law enforcement respond to civil unrest, to assist after hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, and to bolster cyber defenses and local poll workers during last year’s elections.

“I’m absolutely proud of the work that our guard has done,” Austin told senators Thursday. “You mentioned the tremendous work that they did in the Capitol, but they've also, around the country, been very instrumental in helping us to get shots out into people's arms during the vaccination effort. They've answered the call to fight fires and other disasters. And so, they’ve been very busy, and we need to make sure that we have the resources required to ensure that we can continue to train and equip the guard.”