The Army is working to determine which National Guard troops assisting the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration require additional security checks, and is also offering more training on threat detection for those Guardsmen arriving to Washington, D.C., in the coming days, according to the service.
The measures come in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot and after Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., spoke with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy this weekend and expressed “grave concerns about reports that active-duty and reserve military members were involved in the insurrection” at the Capitol.
Crow, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, said he asked McCarthy for Army Criminal Investigation Command to review the backgrounds of any troops involved in inauguration security, “to ensure that deployed members are not sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”
The Defense Department has authorized as many as 15,000 troops to be deployed to D.C. for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“We are working with the Secret Service to determine which service members supporting the national special security event for the Inauguration require additional background screening,” an Army spokesperson said in an emailed response to queries. “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.”
The threat is something the military has faced before. During this summer’s unrest, an Ohio National Guard member was removed from his unit’s mission to D.C. after the FBI uncovered information indicating they expressed white supremacist ideology online.
The Pentagon requires all service members to take annual training on how they should identify and report suspected extremist behavior, but some of those ideologies have proven persistent in the ranks.
More than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members say they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism, according to a 2020 survey of active-duty Military Times readers.
The Army spokesperson also said the service was looking into whether any soldiers participated in the Jan. 6 riot that breached the Capitol and left five people dead — including Capitol Hill police officer Brian Sicknick, an Air National Guard veteran who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.
“The Army is committed to working closely with the F.B.I. as they identify people who participated in the violent attack on the Capitol to determine if the individuals have any connection to the Army,” the spokesperson said. “Any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law.”
A recent FBI bulletin warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and D.C. in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration. The cross-country threat is something National Guard Bureau chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson said he and his staff are also watching.
“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close coordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested,” Hokanson told reporters during a call Monday.
McCarthy, the Army secretary, said Friday that Guardsmen in D.C. may be allowed to carry their M-4 rifles or 9 mm Berettas, pending intelligence assessments in the coming days.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.