The bill for having National Guard troops in Washington to respond to threats that have not emerged is moving closer to $500 million as plans call for troops to remain in D.C. for at least another few weeks.
Fox News, citing a “senior defense official,” reported late Thursday that so far, it has cost the federal government $438 million to keep thousands of Guard troops in Washington.
Meanwhile, a report from Bloomberg on Thursday said the cost to date was at least $480 million. That figure was attributed to “two officials familiar with the situation.”
The Associated Press, quoting “U.S. military officials,” put the total at “nearly $500 million.”
The nearly $500 million bill includes the costs of transporting National Guard troops from their states to D.C., their salaries and benefits, as well as housing and other essentials. https://t.co/eamqMy7chB
— WTOP (@WTOP) February 5, 2021
Guard troops were summoned to Washington in the days after the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion amid fears of major demonstrations during the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. At its peak, the Guard presence in D.C. reached about 26,000.
After reports that Guard units were booted from the Capitol, where they had quartered between patrols, to a parking garage, some states called their troops home. A general reduction in force also took place, leaving about 7,000 troops to guard the Capitol and remain on hand as an insurance policy should the Capitol Police need help.
It’s not clear when — or if — the deployment will end.
Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will have all Guard troops “stand down” in the next 60 days.
But according to a report in Stars and Stripes, it might be months before all of the troops leave.
Austin has agreed to keep 5,000 troops in Washington “indefinitely,” according to the report.
Acting Army Secretary John Whitley said the end date of the deployment is being negotiated.
“We believe that military forces should be used as a last resort,” Whitley said. “We faced an unprecedented crisis over the last three weeks, and our … National Guard responded in an exemplary manner, and we will always do that if there’s a need for the security of our nation.”
He said the Guard should not be the first option used to protect the Capitol.
“We want to continue to emphasize to our partners that we should be the last resort, and that every step should be taken to use appropriate law enforcement personnel before we’re called upon,” Whitley said. “In the short run, you use the forces you have, but in the long term we’d like to work with [law enforcement] and ensure in the future we are the last place you call.”
Some in Congress have called for an end to the deployment.
Online chatter isn’t enough to keep these National Guard members away from their families and jobs, especially after the past year of deployments ranging from #COVID to natural disasters. https://t.co/lwTRo1jp9S
— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) February 2, 2021
We agree, @MayorBowser! The Capitol is the people’s house, not a fortress or an armed camp. When the threat dictates, temporary obstacles and personnel surges can protect the Capitol, as the last week demonstrated. https://t.co/xRFF1aHqCl
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 29, 2021
“The lesson of the Capitol riot is not that we should quarter a standing army at the Capitol just in case, but rather that our security measures should be calibrated to the actual threats,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said.
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