After every military troop surge eventually comes the drawdown, and that’s what is starting to take place in Washington.
National Guard officials say that after about 26,000 troops poured into the city to help protect Wednesday’s inauguration events, they are working to pull troops out and bring them home.
There were no security incidents reported involving the National Guard, officials said in a media release.
“The National Guard is now focusing on coordinating with federal law enforcement to meet any continuing requirements while simultaneously working the logistics to return Guard members to their home states, families, and employers,” the release stated. “As the mission wraps up in the capital region, the National Guard Bureau is working to assist states with preparations and logistics to return troops safely home. "
Though the inauguration ended safely, “we will continue to support federal law enforcement as requested,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard. “Our Guard members will return home as soon as conditions permit.”
On Jan. 6, then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller approved up to 6,200 National Guard troops to support civil authorities in the District of Columbia for up to 31 days under Title 32, 502(f) authority
About 10,600 troops remain on duty right now, Air Force Maj. Matthew Murphy, an NGB spokesman, told Military Times. The other 15,000 troops are in the process of heading back home now, he said.
“The planning and process may take several days, but arrangements are being made to return close to 15,000 troops as soon as possible and should conclude within a five to 10-day period,” Murphy said. “Demobilization is involved with equipment turn-in and accountability, travel arrangements, COVID screening and mitigation. Troops will leave by ground transportation, airlift provided by the Air National Guard and contracted commercial air as necessary.”
But about 7,000 troops will remain through the end of the month, he said.
“Some agencies are requesting continuity of operations, additional support and recuperation time for their forces to regroup. Approximately 7,000 National Guard personnel are anticipated to provide that assistance through the end of the month,” said Murphy.
D.C. National Guard troops will remain on-post until at least Jan. 30, Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a Thursday afternoon press conference. Future deployment of the DCNG depends on future threats, she said.
“We are evaluating … what we think would be intelligence from federal partners that suggest the need” for continued or future DCNG presence in the city,” she said.
Bowser said she asked Christopher Rodriguez, director of the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, to “begin working with our partners to deal with the threat of white extremism and any other threat to our city.”
Rodriguez said that “the threat of right-wing extremism is here. You saw it on Jan. 6. It continues to be a persistent and real threat to the District of Columbia and the region.”
Before the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Bowser said there was no reason to consider calling in the Guard to help protect the Capitol during joint sessions of Congress, like the election certification process that was taking place when the building was stormed.
But in the wake of that event, which took the lives of five people, including Air Force veteran and Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, Bowser said security changes need to be made.
“It is very clear any joint session of Congress should be a special security event or some package like that,” she said.
The next such event is likely to be President Joe Biden’s address to Congress, which will probably take place some time in February.
Hokanson, the NGB chief, said the public has been grateful for the help.
“The outpouring of support to our National Guard across the entire country, and here in the District of Columbia, is a story in itself. I want to particularly thank the citizens of the District of Columbia,” said Hokanson.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.