U.S. Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the head of the National Guard Bureau, stated that about 13,000 Guard members remain in Washington as of Jan. 25.
“As I speak, there are approximately 13,000 National Guard men and women in the District of Columbia primarily conducting security missions in support of our district and federal partners,” he said during a Pentagon briefing, adding that “as requested by the federal agencies we are supporting, we are drawing down to 7,000 soldiers and airmen by the end of this week.”
Acting Army Secretary John Whitley had stated at a Jan. 25 briefing that FBI warnings about possible unrest in the coming weeks will require Guard troops to remain in Washington until March.
“What I can tell you in terms of what they’re briefing us is there are several upcoming events—we don’t know what they are—over the next several weeks, and they’re concerned that there could be situations where there are lawful protests, First Amendment-protected protests, that could either be used by malicious actors or other problems that could emerge,” he said. “We are posturing our forces to be able to respond to those threats if they emerge.”
At least 5,000 of the troops deployed in Washington will remain on duty until March, officials said.
Last week, officials in Washington experienced a public relations fracas after Guard members were sent to rest in a parking garage instead of in the Capitol. Several Guard members confirmed the move to media outlets, which prompted conflicting statements sent out by U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. National Guard.
Several prominent elected officials, including President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, issued apologies and the Guard members were relocated from the garage.
The Guard members were deployed to the nation’s capital after a group stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 during the Joint Session of Congress. Up to 25,000 National Guard members were deployed in Washington ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a U.S. Army veteran, said that it’s unnecessary to keep the Guard around the Capitol building.
“I’m not aware of threat reporting that suggests we need 7,000 troops and razor wire around the Capitol. What happened on January 6 was, in part, the failure of the senior security leaders on Capitol Hill to anticipate the kind of violence we saw from the mob that broke into the Capitol on the 6th,” he told Fox News on Jan. 24.
“There was chatter about that on social media, yet they didn’t request enough backup from the FBI or the Park Police and the National Guard.”