Feb 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Pentagon approves 700 National Guard troops for SOTU

Photo of National Guard soldiers in uniform walking out of the D.C. National Guard building in formation
National Guard troops make their way to buses outside the D.C. Armory after ending their mission in Washington on May 24, 2021. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Department of Defense approved the deployment of about 700 unarmed D.C. National Guard troops ahead of potential trucker protests timed around next week's State of the Union address.

Driving the news: The Capitol riot has left officials wary of miscalculating security risks. The National Guard members will help with traffic control, the Pentagon said.

  • Local and federal agencies are warning of a potential truck convoy aimed at disrupting the event.
  • The demonstration is inspired by Canadian convoys that blocked U.S. border crossings to protest mask and vaccine mandates.
  • An organizer of one convoy told a local Fox affiliate he plans to drive from Pennsylvania to the Capitol Beltway on Wednesday to choke off D.C. traffic like a "giant boa constrictor."

What they're saying: “Our [D.C. Police] and [Capitol Police] partners have asked for our help in ensuring people can demonstrate peacefully and safely, and we stand ready to assist," said Maj. Gen. Sherrie McCandless, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, in a statement on Wednesday.

  • In addition to 400 D.C. National Guard troops, the deployment includes 100 troops from Vermont, 100 from New Jersey and 80 from West Virginia, as well as 50 "large tactical vehicles," the National Guard Bureau said.
  • According to the Bureau, the troops will be unarmed and will be limited to traffic control and assisting at "select Capitol entry points."
  • The deployment will last from Feb. 26 to Mar. 7.

Flashback: Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement to Axios on Tuesday the deployment was under consideration to "address potential challenges stemming from possible disruptions at key traffic arteries."

  • D.C.'s Department of Homeland Security said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been briefed but that no permit application has been filed with the D.C. Police.

What's next: The Capitol Police said last week they are considering re-installing a fence used to secure the Capitol after Jan. 6 and during a rally in September.

  • “The temporary inner-perimeter fence is part of those ongoing discussions and remains an option," they said, stressing that no final decision had been made.
  • Asked about the fence during a press conference on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it is "not my call" and that she "feels confident" about security.
  • Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she will press Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger to ensure there are "no plans to make the fence permanent" during a scheduled briefing on Wednesday.
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