US Capitol Police have requested a two-month extension of National Guard troop support at the US Capitol which is now under review at the Department of Defense, according to two defense officials.
Nearly 5,000 National Guard troops were previously scheduled to remain in Washington through March 12 after their initial deployment was extended, in part, over concerns about potential violence stemming from continued online chatter after President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pushed defense officials and USCP to detail the threats that justify keeping thousands of guardsmen in the nation’s capital and explain the mission they are carrying out.
The Associated Press was first to report the request to extend the National Guard deployment for two additional months.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, said that she had heard about the request for an extension from contacts at the National Guard and US Capitol Police, but critiqued the fact that the message had not been communicated more broadly to members of Congress.
“No one likes seeing the fortress-like security around the Capitol. And no one wants to again have a security problem in and around this symbolic place. But whether an extension has been requested or the mission is indeed terminating on March 12, it’s critical that members of Congress get a briefing on what’s behind these decisions,” Rep. Slotkin said in a statement.
Two congressional aides from relevant committees concerned with Capitol Hill security said they had learned of the request from press reports.
One of the aides told CNN that they have reached out to the Pentagon for more information.
USCP did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
CNN’s Jessica Dean asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday about the Capitol Police request, but she declined to comment, only noting that Gen. Russel Honoré has a draft of his security review of Capitol security and will brief members soon.
“That’s a question for them, the decisions about security are made by the security leadership here and we’ll see what that ask is,” Pelosi said.
“But in terms of that, what we need, we have to have what we need, when we need it, and in the numbers of what we need it, but that’s a security decision,” she added.
Warnings about domestic extremists
While the intelligence behind the request remains unclear at this time, it comes as the Department of Homeland Security and FBI are warning of threats posed by domestic extremists, including concerns about potential violence surrounding March 4 and beyond.
In a clear sign federal agencies are working to avoid the same communication failures for which they have been roundly criticized since the Capitol attack, DHS officials are stressing that law enforcement should not view intelligence solely through the lens of whether a threat qualifies as “credible and specific,” but use the warnings coming from DHS, FBI and other partner agencies to inform decisions about their security posture, even if the information provided falls short of pointing to an imminent attack or violence, two sources told CNN.
The request for 4,900 National Guard troops to stay in Washington through March 12 was made by USCP, defense officials told House lawmakers last month, adding that the Pentagon was working with relevant law enforcement agencies to determine what an appropriate force presence looks like now that the threat landscape has changed in the weeks since Biden’s inauguration.
“The number was based on different missions that they would, the National Guard members would be supporting, response force, perimeter, security, those kinds of mission sets. We’re working with them. As you know, the current request ends on March 12. We’re trying to determine with them is what is the right level of security that they need from the National Guard considering that the circumstances have changed,” Pentagon official Robert Salesses said at the time.
“We work very closely with the FBI, Secret Service, and others and the Capitol Police to try to determine what they believe that threat is, and then looking at what they believe is the need for the National Guard, or the types of mission sets that they need support from, we work very closely with them to try to determine what that is. Obviously 4900 is a very large number here at the Capitol,” he added.