National Guard Presence in DC Hasn’t Been Requested Past March: Defense Secretary

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 19, 2021

No agencies or officials have requested National Guard troops remain in Washington past mid-March, the Pentagon’s leader said Friday.

“Right now in terms of our expected stay, it is March 12th. We don’t have an additional requirement or requests from a federal agency to provide them support, so that’s our focus right now,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters in Washington at a briefing.

Some reports suggested the Guard could maintain an active presence in the nation’s capital through the fall. Most of the troops are at the U.S. Capitol at the request of Congress, in the wake of the Jan. 6 breach of the building.

The Pentagon previously referred The Epoch Times to the Guard, which said in a statement that it “is currently supporting federal agencies through mid-March.”

Approximately 6,000 troops remain on duty, providing assistance such as security, communications, and medical evacuation.

Congressional leadership didn’t return requests for comment and the White House declined to answer on the record after a report suggested its National Security Council wants troops in Washington for a number of additional months.

Epoch Times Photo
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits National Guard troops deployed at the U.S. Capitol and its perimeter, in Washington, on Jan. 29, 2021. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo, Pool)

The U.S. Capitol Police, which officials said requested 4,900 troops through March 12, also didn’t respond to an inquiry.

Robert Salesses, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and global security, told lawmakers in a hearing Wednesday that officials are working with law enforcement partners to identify potential threats.

“At this time, I am not aware of a threat that is out there, but that evolves all the time, so we have to work closely with our law enforcement partners,” he said.

Austin said Friday he wouldn’t talk about specific intelligence, but officials “will continue to assess the threats as we go forward and decisions will be based upon what we believe is creditable or not.”

“I told them when I went to see them the other day that my plan is to not keep them there one day longer than is necessary,” he added, referring to Guardsmen.

“Having said that, they know and understand that if our lawmakers need help, they need protection, they stand ready to provide that protection. But, again, March 12th is what we’re focused on now.”

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