As the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot nears, arguments abound over how the Defense Department responded to the attack, and whether there was a delay in activating the National Guard to secure the area.
In case something similar happens in the future, the procedure will be more simple than it was in early 2021: federal agency requests will go through the DoD executive secretary, per a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed Thursday.
“By clarifying and refining the request process, including outlining the required information needed to assess requests from Federal and local partners, the Department will be able to respond to requests efficiently, quickly, and effectively,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby wrote in a release.
The Pentagon hasn’t received any requests in anticipation of anniversary demonstrations on Jan. 6, 2022, Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a DoD spokesman, told Military Times on Thursday.
The change comes after a review Austin directed earlier this year.
If National Guard assistance is required within 48 hours, the defense secretary will be the approval authority for activating the D.C. National Guard, which cannot be activated by D.C.’s mayor, unlike state governors.
This caused much consternation on Jan. 6, as the then-acting defense secretary delegated approval to the Army secretary, who then circled back with the acting defense secretary for his blessing, in deference to the chain of command.
And while D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had requested some Guardsmen downtown for traffic control on Jan. 6, the Capitol Police didn’t request any until after the complex was breached, adding hours to get approvals and create a response plan.
“Throughout this process, the Department will continue to work closely with its partners, including with the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police, and U.S. Capitol Police, to improve planning for scheduled and emerging events,” Kirby wrote.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.