Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III speaks with Indian Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

In the aftermath and controversy over the delays in deploying the D.C. Guard during the January 6 Capitol riot, the Pentagon has announced the defense secretary will now have sole authority to approve requests to deploy the D.C. National Guard in civil law enforcement or emergency events that would require its deployment within 48 hours.

The Army secretary, the service’s top civilian official, previously had that delegated approval authority.

Even in this new framework, the Army secretary remains authorized to control the Guard in the district and to consider D.C. government requests for use of the Guard in the district for non-urgent and non-law enforcement purposes.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said ‘law enforcement’ activities include crowd control, traffic control, search, seizure, arrest or temporary detention.

According to the Associated Press:

The changes are intended to make the Pentagon better prepared to handle urgent requests for law enforcement support by civil authorities. After January’s riot, the Pentagon came under criticism by some for a slow response to requests for Guard assistance, although a Defense Department inspector general review concluded that senior defense officials had acted appropriately before and during the riot.

The use of National Guard troops in the nation’s capital is complicated by the fact that the usual chain of command headed by a governor does not apply because the district is not a state. Thus, the commanding general of the D.C. Guard reports to the president, although a 1969 executive order delegated control to the secretary of defense, who subsequently further delegated the authority to the Army secretary.

In a written statement, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that last spring, Austin ordered a review of how the Defense Department handles requests for support in the National Capital region.

The review covered approval authorities, request processes, planning, command relationships, staff support, and training.

Based on that review, Kirby added, Austin amended the 1969 arrangement for handling certain urgent requests for deployment of the Guard in the district. This new framework clarifies how federal and local agencies request assistance for time sensitive events, as well as scheduled Guard activities in the district.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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suzanne muzechuk
suzanne muzechuk
7 months ago


Tilly Barry
Tilly Barry
6 months ago

I have been doing this job for like a few weeks and KJH my last weekly payment was exactly
𝙁𝙞𝙣𝙙 𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙃𝙀𝙍𝙀….__𝐆𝐨𝐨𝐠𝐥𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐲𝐬𝟎𝟏.𝐓𝐤

Bug D
Bug D
7 months ago

Can you say POWER GRAB?

Charles Baldwin
Charles Baldwin
7 months ago

Just another argument for dissolving the District and returning it to Maryland. The DC guard then falls under the command of the governor f Maryland. All kinds of other Federal nonsense (like the FBI and Merrick Garland) can be disbanded. The South Side of the Potomac that made up the rest of the 10 mile by 10 mile square was returned to Virginia in 1852. Time to catch up Maryland! End DC, now!!!!