National Guard Has New Rules for Use in DC

Approval responsibility shifts to defense secretary
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2021 4:26 PM CST
Pentagon Changes Rules for Deploying National Guard
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, shown last month, will assume responsibility for approving use of the National Guard in the District of Columbia.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Pentagon said Thursday it has streamlined the approval process for urgent use of National Guard forces in the District of Columbia, after months of study following the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol. The changes give the defense secretary sole authority to approve requests that would involve DC National Guard personnel participating in civil law enforcement or that would require their deployment within 48 hours, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a written statement. That approval authority had previously been delegated to the Army secretary, the service's top civilian official, the AP reports.

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 for a slow response to requests for Guard assistance, though 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 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 DC Guard's commanding general reports to the president, though a 1969 executive order delegated control to the secretary of defense, who later delegated the authority to the Army secretary. Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has amended the previous arrangement so the defense secretary is the sole authority for approval in certain circumstances. The Army secretary remains authorized to control Guard operations in the District and to consider District government requests for use of the Guard in the city for non-law enforcement purposes and in nonurgent situations. The changes ensure "the department will be able to respond to requests efficiently, quickly, and effectively," Kirby said.

(More National Guard stories.)

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