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National Guard reduces numbers at Capitol as ‘threat’ diminishes

Abraham Mahshie, Defense Reporter

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The camouflaged citizen soldiers were conspicuously absent along large swaths of barbed wire-topped fences surrounding the Capitol on Friday. Absent an imminent threat, and with diminished congressional and public support, the National Guard's numbers there have been cut in half.

The National Guard presence at the Capitol began Jan. 6, following the Capitol riot, and peaked at 26,000 during the presidential inauguration. A $483 million mission that involved all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories was supposed to end March 12 until Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request by the U.S. Capitol Police to extend the mission of 2,300 troops until May 23. Since then, there have been bipartisan calls to send the Guard home, and the National Guard Bureau has had difficulty sourcing the mission.

“We are currently in a state of transition with members of various states coming and going from the [Washington] area,” D.C. National Guard’s Maj. Aaron Thacker told the Washington Examiner on Friday. “We are scheduled to be fully transitioned by March 23.”

The National Guard transition encompasses a phasing out of those members who have been serving from some 30 states in the final weeks of the first mission to a much-reduced coterie of 11 mainly Democratic-leaning states and the District of Columbia.


The District, New Jersey, and Delaware have been involved in the mission since it started.

“Every state and territory supported this mission in some capacity for the inauguration, then many returned to their states of origin,” said Thacker. “Those who are returning, or extending, do so at the will of their governors.”

Republican governors and National Guard adjunct generals from Florida, Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere have refused to fulfill the National Guard request at the nation’s capital absent a visible threat.

A March 15 letter by the acting sergeant-at-arms to members of Congress announced that fencing on Third Street between Independence Avenue S.W. and Constitution Avenue N.W. had been taken down, and more perimeter fencing would be removed, opening traffic to Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue.

The letter also stated: “Based on the current threat posture, it is anticipated that the National Guard will begin to reduce its posture at the Capitol in the coming weeks.”


The D.C. National Guard referred questions about the reduced Guard requirement and the rate of withdrawal to the Department of Defense. DOD did not respond to multiple inquiries by the Washington Examiner.

The so-called "People’s House" is still mostly surrounded by razor wire-topped fencing and restricted from public access, but National Guard troops are now spaced out farther. The cost of the extended mission is expected to swell past $520 million, twice the annual Capitol Police budget in just three months’ time.