In the aftermath and controversy over the delays in deploying the D.C. Guard during the January 6 Capitol riot, the Pentagon has announced the defense secretary will now have sole authority to approve requests to deploy the D.C. National Guard in civil law enforcement or emergency events that would require its deployment within 48 hours.
The Army secretary, the service’s top civilian official, previously had that delegated approval authority.
Even in this new framework, the Army secretary remains authorized to control the Guard in the district and to consider D.C. government requests for use of the Guard in the district for non-urgent and non-law enforcement purposes.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said ‘law enforcement’ activities include crowd control, traffic control, search, seizure, arrest or temporary detention.
According to the Associated Press:
The changes are intended to make the Pentagon better prepared to handle urgent requests for law enforcement support by civil authorities. After January’s riot, the Pentagon came under criticism by some for a slow response to requests for Guard assistance, although a Defense Department inspector general review concluded that senior defense officials had acted appropriately before and during the riot.
The use of National Guard troops in the nation’s capital is complicated by the fact that the usual chain of command headed by a governor does not apply because the district is not a state. Thus, the commanding general of the D.C. Guard reports to the president, although a 1969 executive order delegated control to the secretary of defense, who subsequently further delegated the authority to the Army secretary.
In a written statement, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that last spring, Austin ordered a review of how the Defense Department handles requests for support in the National Capital region.
The review covered approval authorities, request processes, planning, command relationships, staff support, and training.
Based on that review, Kirby added, Austin amended the 1969 arrangement for handling certain urgent requests for deployment of the Guard in the district. This new framework clarifies how federal and local agencies request assistance for time sensitive events, as well as scheduled Guard activities in the district.