WASHINGTON — National Guard troops moving into Washington from at least one nearby state to protect the Capitol in the weeks before Inauguration Day will be armed with lethal force, according to the general for Pennsylvania's troops.
“There's no hiding the fact that soldiers and airmen do have lethal force with them," Brigadier General David Wood of the Pennsylvania National Guard said Friday. "How those rules of the use of force are engaged is just dependent on the scenario and in that situation. We are going to try to deescalate as much as we can."
Wood joined National Guard leaders from New Jersey and Maryland in a briefing Friday afternoon. More than 5,000 troops from six states will join the 1,100 D.C. National Guard members currently working in Washington, according to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
National Guard troops from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York will deploy to D.C., McCarthy said.
Wood noted his Pennsylvania Guard troops experienced armed deployments in Philadelphia during recent disturbances.
Armed troops are a contrast to the original request to the Pentagon for D.C. National Guard activation made by Mayor Muriel Bowser on Dec. 31 as the city planned for upcoming demonstrations.
"No DCNG personnel shall be armed during this mission, and at no time, will DCNG personnel or assets be engaged in domestic surveillance, searches, or seizures of US persons," Bowser’s written request to federal military authorities said, according to reporting by CNN.
“They will be deployed to assist us with crowd management as well as traffic control," Acting DC Police Chief Robert Contee said in a briefing the Monday prior to Wednesday's attack on the Capitol. "That will allow for the police officers to focus on anyone who's intent on instigating agitating or participating in violence in our city."
As events spiraled out of control during Wednesday's deadly assault on the Capitol, leaders in D.C. bitterly complained that the Pentagon delayed orders to redirect DC Guard to the fight.
At 3:38 that afternoon, the DC Council sent a tweet accusing the pentagon of denying Mayor Bowser’s urgent request to send the D.C. guard already on the streets to the Capitol Building.
“We are appalled this fundamental request was denied” the council wrote in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bowser’s office said Friday evening the National Guard assistance D.C. requested and needed before Jan. 6 in the district was there, but said it was the Capitol and federal property that was left unprotected from the National Guard.
According to the Secretary of the Army, there were talks with the Capitol Police before Jan. 6, but no requests for the National Guard were made.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said he mobilized the entire guard to the Capitol after Capitol Police requested additional support during the riots. A spokeswoman for the mayor's office said "optics" was a factor in pre-positioning the National Guard outside the Capitol.
“With the respect to the pre-coordination, to the mayor's point those things are all being looked at," McCarthy said. "There were discussions previously with the Capitol Police and others and no request of the D.C. National Guard were made. Obviously, it is a different branch of government so we have to be requested to come on to the grounds."
Because Washington is a federal district and not a state, the mayor does not have the authority to call out D.C.'s National Guard on her own as state governors do for their troops. Instead, she must request activation from the U.S. Army authorities at the Pentagon, which must approve the request and the proposed mission.
On Friday, Bowser called on Congress to give D.C.’s mayor the authority to call out its own guard and grant the District statehood.