Guard's DC Deployment Could Become Permanent as Lawmakers Eye $200M Quick Reaction Force

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The Capitol dome is seen as members of the National Guard leave the Capitol.
The Capitol dome is seen as members of the National Guard leave the Capitol perimeter they had been guarding, Friday, April 2, 2021, after a car crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

House leaders are considering spending $200 million to stand up a permanent National Guard quick reaction force to be ready to immediately combat future emergencies in Washington, D.C.

The Emergency Security Supplemental to Respond to January 6th Appropriations Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., includes $1.9 billion in funding to respond to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The bill follows recommendations by a task force that examined the U.S. Capitol's security measures. It includes a large roster of resources for law enforcement and boosted security features.

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"This emergency supplemental appropriation addresses the direct costs of the insurrection and strengthens Capitol security for the future," DeLauro, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations, said in a statement. "It is also long overdue recognition of the work of the Capitol Police, the sacrifices that they and their families have made, and the changes they need."

The package also includes $521 million to cover the ongoing costs of the Guard deployment at the Capitol, which is currently expected to end May 23. There are roughly 2,000 troops involved in Capitol security, according to the National Guard Bureau.

"It is the responsibility of Congress to pay for the costs incurred by the National Guard," Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said in a statement. "We also need to be prepared should another attack on our democracy occur and not expect the Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to do it alone."

The proposal is not specific about what a quick reaction force would look like. National Guard troops have to maintain full-time civilian jobs and are not eligible for child care. For a QRF to work as intended, troops would likely need to be on standby either at a nearby base or on Capitol Hill.

It is unclear whether a quick reaction mission would solely rely on the D.C. National Guard or if the mission would need to rotate other states in, putting a new deployment in the list of activations the Guard is juggling, which includes places like Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

The president would essentially need to declare a permanent state of emergency in D.C. in order for Guardsmen to earn federal benefits such as the GI Bill if they stay on Title 32 orders. Under Title 32, the federal government picks up the tab, though the troops still fall under command of their respective states. If not, Guardsmen would likely need to deploy on Title 10 orders, usually reserved for deployments abroad and the southern border, which would grant them full pay and benefits.

The mission on Capitol Hill has grown increasingly unpopular on both sides of the political aisle. Even Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the Guard's leader, suggested in a memo that the mission is stretching the force too thin, given the lack of specific threats.

President Joe Biden's nominee to be the next secretary of the Army believes that the National Guard may be stretched too thin and nearing the breaking point after a year of nonstop activations.

"I am concerned about the possibility of unreasonable demands [on] the Guard. I would want to look closely on how that strain is manifesting," Christine Wormuth told senators at her confirmation hearing Thursday.

Wormuth's concerns mirror comments made last week by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville when he told lawmakers that a combination of two decades of war and activations at home might be too much.

"Our force has been heavily committed over the past 20 years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and around the world," he said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the service's budget. "My concern is we want to make sure we reduce the op tempo of our troops, including the National Guard who have been heavily employed, whether that's home or overseas."

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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