Army secretary promises National Guard will help deliver a ‘peaceful transition of power’

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said 6,200 National Guardsmen will help ensure that President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated Jan. 20 without civil unrest like that seen Wednesday, when the Capitol building was overtaken by pro-Trump rioters.

“We need to ensure that President Biden has an inauguration and sends a message to the world, a peaceful transition of power, and he gets in the seat, and he gets to work,” McCarthy told a small group of Pentagon journalists Friday morning.

“We’re going to ensure that this capital is safe. We’re working with the federal law enforcement agencies to do that,” said McCarthy, who oversees National Guard deployment in the District of Columbia because of its special status.

When called upon by governors, the National Guard plays a support role to local law enforcement. Gaps in the protection of the Capitol building, he said, were the result of poor planning by the Capitol Police, which did not request National Guard support until its security was breached.

McCarthy spoke to journalists in order to clarify the sequence of events that led the National Guard to help retake the Capitol Wednesday. In describing the early afternoon flurry of high-level meetings at the Pentagon, McCarthy emphasized that D.C. and other National Guard deployments were authorized by Defense Secretary Chris Miller immediately.

The claim contradicted Thursday statements by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said his requests were “repeatedly denied” for 90 minutes.

The 6,200 Guard members from seven states will be fully in place by Sunday, McCarthy said, noting that 820 guardsmen are already conducting 12-hour shifts to protect the Capitol building. Seven-foot, non-scalable fences also surround the grounds and will remain in place for at least 30 days.

“These soldiers, guardsmen, are going to be here for a while, at least a month, maybe longer. We’re trying to get into the long-term planning of this,” he said. “We’re going to continue to improve and strengthen our posture so this doesn’t happen again.”