Vetting of 25,000 National Guard troops in DC is normal, not tied to specific threat, SecDef says

The number of Guardsmen is about 2 1/2 times the number used for previous inaugurations.

Updated: January 18, 2021 - 4:07pm

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Widespread vetting of the roughly 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. is typical for an event on the scale of Wednesday's inaugural, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said on Monday.

"As is normal for military support to large security events, the [Defense] Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C.," Miller said in a statement Jan. 18. "While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital."  

The Associated Press reported late on Sunday that the FBI is vetting National Guard troops over Defense Department concerns about an inside attack from service members. 

Military sources confirmed the move with Just the News but said it's part of overall precautions, not a specific threat. They also said the FBI, to their knowledge, has not flagged any service members.

"This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events," Miller said. "However, in this case the scope of military participation is unique."

Miller noted that the troops also have been directed to maintain situational awareness. "The D.C. National Guard is also providing additional training to service members as they arrive in D.C. that if they see or hear something that is not appropriate, they should report it to their chain of command," Miller said. 

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in Wednesday, but federal officials began ramping up security immediately after the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building. 

The heavy security — underscored by photos of guardsmen sleeping inside the Capitol Building and armed on D.C. streets — is also in response to FBI concerns about more armed protests in the nation's capital and at statehouses across the country.

The number of guardsmen is about 2 1/2 times the number used for previous inaugurations.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the wire service Sunday that officials are conscious of the potential threat, and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches.

The military routinely reviews service members for extremist connections. The FBI screening is in addition to any previous monitoring.