Defense Secretary says National Guard troops to leave by mid-March, but long-term
Security precautions have a way of defying gravity.
What goes up never comes down.
What say you, Sir Isaac Newton?
We witnessed that around Washington, D.C., after 9/11. Security officials hardened federal facilities in the nation’s capital into a citadel. Walls. Fences. Jersey barricades. Posts. Armed patrols. Sniffer dogs.
Those things will never disappear.
The Secret Service closed off Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“Clearly, this closing is necessary because of the changing nature and scope of the threat of terrorist actions,” said former President Bill Clinton a few weeks after a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Pennsylvania Avenue nearly defied security physics in 2000. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., endorsed a plan to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue with new precautions. The goal was to reconnect traffic on the east and west sides of downtown Washington and eliminate an “image of fortification” at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
But then 9/11 happened. And security physics prevailed.
So, what will happen at the U.S. Capitol?
America’s seat of government is ringed by two enormous fences, festooned with concertina wire. Armed guards in camouflage roam the grounds. The current perimeter pushes out several blocks from the Capitol itself on the north, nearly to Union Station. Only those who work on Capitol Hill are allowed in.
The current contingent of National Guard troops is committed to remaining in Washington through mid-March. U.S. Capitol Police and congressional leaders would have to formally request a longer stay. But Fox is told it’s likely the Capitol Police and others will request a small National Guard group to linger after that. It certainly won’t be as large as the mass of soldiers on shift now. It could be a certain number of troops that security officials could deploy quickly if there’s an emergency.
“It’s naive to think that in the middle of March (the guardsmen) go away,” said one knowledgeable source.
The current assignment for National Guard troops runs through March 12. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told colleague Jennifer Griffin that soldiers would stay through mid-March.
“We don’t have an additional requirement or request from another federal agency to provide them support,” said Austin. “We don’t have any additional requirements beyond the one that we just talked about.”
He added that “March 12 is what we’re focused on.”
But Austin was precise in his language. So far, congressional leaders or the Capitol Police have yet to send the Pentagon a “request” for troops to stay longer.
“My plan is to not keep them one day longer than is necessary,” said Austin. “Having said that, they know and understand that if our lawmakers need help, they need protection, they stand ready to provide that protection.”
Fox is told some sort of additional request is likely to come soon.
The problem is that the Capitol Police are still reeling from last month’s riot. Ranks are depleted. Morale is low. Officers are suffering from injuries – physical and mental.
A mob demonstrated just how easy it is to penetrate the nation’s citadel of democracy. Regardless of viewpoint, that ought to petrify every American. The legislative branch of government cannot just be that pregnable to a mob.
There’s concern that the Capitol Police may not be up to the job of protecting the Capitol right now. The day-to-day stuff, sure. But there are whispers the department is so traumatized it couldn’t defend American democracy against another insurgence.
And there are schisms in the department. The current Capitol Police leadership just endured a no-confidence…