The District of Columbia Air National Guard would receive $200 million to set up a quick reaction force of service members prepared to respond to any violence or threats on Capitol Hill under a $1.9 billion security supplemental unveiled by House leaders on Friday.
The package also includes nearly $521 million for unanticipated pay and operations cost for the still-ongoing Guard deployment to protect Congress in the wake of the attack on the Capitol building in January.
Those reimbursement costs nearly match the amount of money in the measure for future grounds security projects around the Capitol complex, to include retractable fencing designed to prevent a large surge of crowds onto the grounds during future protests or events.
On Jan. 6, hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump forced their way into the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt certification of last November’s presidential election results. Five people died as a result of the violence.
In the following weeks, nearly 26,000 National Guard troops were mobilized to provide security before and after the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. About 2,200 National Guard troops are still supporting the Capitol mission, Capt. Chelsi B. Johnson, a D.C. National Guard spokeswoman, told Military Times. The Capitol Police have not requested the Guard to stay past May 23, she said.
“Once the mission concludes, the D.C. National Guard will return to normal operations and the out-of-state Guard members will return to their home station,” said Johnson.
However, a security review conducted earlier this year recommended a military quick reaction force for future threat events where Capitol Police resources may not be enough.
The supplemental proposes “a ground force equivalent of the 113th Wing within the District of Columbia Air National Guard at Joint Base Andrews, which defends National Capital Region airspace.”
No further details were provided. It is not clear if such a force would be staffed by individuals whose permanent residence is in the region or by rotations of troops from around the country.
The National Guard deployment has become increasingly controversial in recent months, with numerous Republican lawmakers complaining that the force remains stationed around the Capitol even though no credible threats to the campus have been made public for months.
Much of the campus also remains restricted to the public due to ongoing pandemic prevention efforts.
“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on matters of pending legislation,” said Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau.
In a statement, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said she hopes the supplemental plan can be adopted quickly.
“The Jan. 6 insurrection caused tragic loss of life and many injuries, while leaving behind widespread physical damage to the Capitol Complex and emotional trauma for members, congressional employees, and the Capitol Police,” she said.
“This emergency supplemental appropriation addresses the direct costs of the insurrection and strengthens Capitol security for the future.”
Lawmakers are expected to consider the measure over the next few weeks.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.