Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the National Guard in Washington, D.C., testifies about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing, March 3, 2021.
The top commander of the National Guard in Washington, D.C., revealed Wednesday (March 3) that the National Guard’s deployment was delayed after the Jan. 6 break-in at the U.S. Capitol because an “unusual” memo was issued the day before.
D.C. Guard Commander William Walker told lawmakers at a Capitol Hill hearing that then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had issued a Jan. 5 memo prohibiting the unauthorized use of the Guard’s “Quick Reaction Force Quick Reaction Force” (Quick Reaction Force).
Walker revealed that if there had been no such restriction, he would have sent the force to the Capitol immediately, especially after receiving an emotional call for help from former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund at 1:49 p.m.
“By that Time we had sent Guard officers and men on buses ready to go to the Capitol,” he said in testimony before two Senate committees in Washington.
But it was not to be, and it took them more than three hours to get permission to proceed with the deployment after Walker was told about Pentagon official Sund’s request.
By then, the protesters had been roaming the Capitol for hours, trying to approach members of Congress, enter the Senate floor and steal items from offices.
After receiving permission, the National Guard quickly rushed to the Capitol and “helped rebuild the security line on the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the joint session of Congress,” Walker said.
A “rapid response force” is a tool commanders typically use to help civilian agencies or to help National Guard units that are already deployed and need assistance.
According to Walker, McCarthy’s memo requires that guardsmen must obtain approval to travel from one traffic control point to another. In his 19-year career, he said, he has never seen such a restriction.
Walker also revealed that Pentagon officials told him that force could be used, but only as a “last resort in response to an appropriate civilian sector request.”
Walker recalled a call with Pentagon officials at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6, saying military officials believed it would be unwise to deploy troops to the Capitol for fear of sparking further unrest. McCarthy did not participate in the conference call, but Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, brother of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, did, he said. Michael Flynn, a national security adviser to former President Donald Trump (R-Texas), called the 2020 election fraught with fraud.
Sander told lawmakers last week that he contacted former House Armed Guard Officer Paul Irving (R-Iowa) and former Senate Armed Guard Officer Michael Stenger (D-Mich.) on Jan. 4 to request assistance from the National Guard (National Guard) because he did not personally have the proper authority to request it.
In his prepared testimony, Sander said, “Irving said he was concerned about the ‘potential’ need for a National Guard deployment, but did not believe that the intelligence community supported such an approach. Stenger, in turn, “suggested that I ask them how quickly we could get their support, if needed, and ‘make an advance’ in case we had to request assistance on Jan. 6.”
Owen denied that, saying he wasn’t concerned about the possibility, but did have no intelligence support on the issue of requesting National Guard support.
Sander said he called Walker, who told him he could always dispatch a nearby Guard unit if needed.
At about 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6, Sander, Owen and Stanger were still on the phone with officials, including Walker, and Sander said he asked for immediate National Guard support.
According to Sander, Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt replied that he “didn’t like the visual of the National Guard standing in the background of the Capitol.”
Piatt allegedly said at the time, “I’d rather withdraw the Capitol police from elsewhere so they can deal with the protesters.” Piatt eventually agreed to send a request for help down the chain of command. The first 150 Guard officers and men took position at the Capitol at 5:40 p.m., officials said.
Owen and Stenger told senators last week that they believed the security plan was adequate for the planned Jan. 6 rally.
Stenger said, “But this was a violent, organized attack, and the loss of Life could have been much worse.”
Robert Salesses, who currently serves as assistant secretary of defense for homeland security and global security, challenged Walker’s testimony on Capitol Hill late Wednesday.
In his statement, he said then-Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller authorized the activation of the Washington, D.C., National Guard at 3:04 p.m. after consulting with senior officials. The Guard was told to proceed to the Capitol in 30 minutes. When they arrived on scene, they were assigned to the Capitol Police and began supporting them. At 6:14 p.m., they established a perimeter on the west side of the Capitol.
Salthis also said Miller authorized McCarthy to send a 40-person “quick reaction force” to provide support if necessary.
Mark Miller, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top U.S. military official, told reporters on Monday (March 1) that Pentagon officials approved the law enforcement request for help within about 60 minutes. He added that it did take the National Guard in Washington, D.C., several hours from mobilization to arrival at the Capitol.
Miller told reporters who traveled with him to Colorado, “If these troops were prepared ahead of time as part of the preparation, then I would say, well, that’s an average level of assessment. But this is the National Guard in Washington, D.C., starting from a cold start state, and their troops got there in two and a half, three hours.” “They’re all starting from a cold start, and they’re all going to respond faster than our most elite troops.”
He said getting approval in about an hour was “super fast” for the Pentagon, adding, “It’s like sprint speed.”
Trump has said he asked for 10,000 National Guard personnel on Jan. 6, but was denied. He said he heard the request was denied because certain congressional leaders, including House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, did not want that many troops in the Capitol.
Trump told Fox News over the weekend, “It’s a big mistake.”
Pelosi did not respond to reporters’ requests for comment.
Miller told Vanity Fair magazine that Trump told him at the White House on Jan. 5 that the military needed to deploy 10,000 troops.
Miller added, “I’m not talking (expletive), that’s what he said. And it’s like we’re saying, ‘Maybe, but you know, somebody’s always going to ask for that.'”