By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday the readiness of the National Guard will “begin to erode” if it’s not reimbursed for protecting the US Capitol in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection.
“I think you’ve heard me say before, that if we don’t resource the Guard, what will happen is it’ll begin to erode readiness. It will disallow them to conduct training in accordance with the schedules that they should be on,” Austin testified at a House Armed Services hearing. “And so this is very, very important to us. And I would encourage and ask for your help in providing those resources.”
National Guard troops were stationed at the Capitol for months following the attack on the Capitol. Reimbursing that long-term security posture is just the latest politically thorny issue facing Congress in the wake of the riot. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Tuesday that Congress would need to allocate about $450 million to cover the cost of the mission.
“Without that, those resources, the Guard for example, and this is in states all around the country, will find themselves with training issues that are going to affect both their aviation readiness, for example, their ability to have readiness with their ground vehicles,” Wormouth testified at a Senate Appropriations hearing.
That message was echoed by National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, who told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday the Guard would need to be reimbursed to “meet our training and operations and maintenance requirements for the rest of the year.”
Hokanson said if they were not reimbursed, they would have to completely eliminate or drastically reduce “drill weekends, and annual training, as well as our operational maintenance.”
A group composed of service members who hold civilian jobs and train part time, National Guard troops are usually deployed in their home states by governors or the federal government, who decide the length of each mission.
They can perform law enforcement actions when under the command of state governors, unlike the active-duty military, which is forbidden by law from doing so unless the president invokes the Insurrection Act.
A relatively small number of guardsmen were in DC on January 6 to assist the city’s police force with traffic control in an effort to allow the local authorities to focus on anything related to demonstrations planned in the city.
Ultimately, then-Vice President Mike Pence, not then-President Donald Trump, helped facilitate the decision to mobilize additional members of the DC Guard when violence at the US Capitol building started to escalate.