Pentagon to shake up DC National Guard after criticism for Jan. 6, BLM protest response

The officials are dealing with the major issue of who should control the D.C. Guard.

Published: August 16, 2023 8:29am

Updated: August 16, 2023 9:31am

The Pentagon is reportedly working on plans to restructure the Washington, D.C., National Guard, following the unit's responses to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol Riot and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd. 

One proposal under consideration is to transfer the D.C. Guard's aviation units, which flew as low as 100 feet above protesters during the summer of 2020, in exchange for more military police in the District, said current and former officials familiar with the matter said, according to Associated Press.

No decisions have been finalized, amid the purported sticking point being who should control the D.C. Guard. 

Governors across the U.S. control their Guard units and can decide when to deploy them to local disasters and other incidents. However, the District of Columbia is not a state, so president is in charge of that unit.

The commander-in-chief delegates authority over the Guard to the Defense secretary, who typically gives it to the Army secretary.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is purportedly considering whether to maintain the current system or hand control over the D.C. Guard to U.S. Northern Command, which oversees homeland defense.

Senior officials have voiced support for delegating control to Northern Command. This would stop political appointees who may be at odds with the D.C. government from managing the Guard and instead giving it to nonpartisan military commanders already in charge of U.S. defense.

The goal is not to decrease the D.C. Guard's size but to reform it and ensure the units have the proper equipment and training.

Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other local officials have argued that the mayor should have the authority to deploy the Guard. Currently, the mayor must ask the Pentagon for Guard assistance, such as during the violent 2020 protests and later during the Jan. 6 riot.

The Trump administration was accused of having political motivations when responding to the unrest in the Democratic-majority city, but Defense officials rejected the claims and blamed D.C.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on Twitter or Instagram.

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