A permanent National Guard force at the Capitol?

Following the hearings that were held to examine what exactly happened during and leading up to the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, a task force was established to make recommendations to improve security and prevent such unrest in the future. They’ve come back with their first findings now and one of the first suggestions on the list is a bit of an eye-opener. The team, led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, suggests establishing a permanent National Guard unit in Washington, D.C. with the ability to respond quickly in the event of another attack of that sort. While that may seem like a fine idea at first glance, there are a number of factors that complicate the situation quite a bit. (Military.com)

A task force charged with making recommendations to boost congressional security after a deadly Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob assault on Capitol Hill has proposed establishing a permanent military presence ready to go at a moment’s notice in Washington, D.C.

The security review, led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who ran military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, recommended establishing a permanent National Guard quick reaction force, or QRF, for all of D.C.

A QRF is a standard military security element meant to provide swift reinforcements.

Before addressing the complicating factors I mentioned above, I’d like to start off with a more fundamental question. Is this really where we are as a nation now? I would much prefer to think of the January 6 assault as an aberration that won’t be allowed to happen again, not the “new normal” of our highly divided society. We’re talking about the capital of the United States. It should, in theory, be one of the safest places for citizens to stroll around and observe the workings of their government. A 9/11 style terror attack would be the exception, but other than that all of the large gatherings in Washington have been peaceful if boisterous rallies and marches. Does Capitol Hill really need a permanent military presence to protect our monuments and elected officials from our own people? I find this dismaying in the extreme.

As to the proposal to establish a permanent quick reaction force in the Capital, the linked report demonstrates that it wouldn’t be as easy as snapping your fingers and it wouldn’t be cheap. There would either need to be a permanent National Guard force established on the grounds or different Guard units would need to be rotated in and out every three to six months. That would be a huge hit to the Guard’s budget no matter how it’s done, particularly given the cost of living expenses encountered in the District.

The men and women of the Guard would also be put under a lot of stress and duress. They generally have civilian jobs to hold down but a system such as this would see them gone every year for months at a time. There’s also anxiety caused by prolonged separation from their families if the rotating schedule is chosen. It’s also noted that in order for the troops to receive the full federal benefits they would normally receive when deployed, the President would have to effectively declare a permanent state of emergency in the District of Columbia.

There’s one more proposal from the task force that’s potentially even more alarming. Normally, before the National Guard could move into action during an emergency, the D.C. Guard would need to receive authorization from the President. The task force is suggesting that we give the commander for the D.C. Guard the authority to deploy troops without the President’s permission “under extreme circumstances.”

That’s not something that’s ever done and we would be placing one heck of a lot of power and authority in one Guard commander’s hands. Who would make the decision as to when the circumstances became “extreme” enough to justify going around the President? Obviously, it would be completely up to the commander’s discretion. Honestly, I’m not even sure if that’s constitutional.

This all sounds a bit extreme to me. Wouldn’t it be easier and wiser to just identify what went wrong with the response of the Capitol Hill Police on January 6 and move to make sure they have the best procedures and resources to respond to any future incidents of massive unrest? I’m sure we’re all hoping it never happens again, but now that it’s happened once, surely we are smart enough to make adjustments.