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US MPs eye $200mn for permanent presence of National Guards on Capitol grounds

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Capitol dome is seen as members of the National Guard leave the Capitol perimeter they had been guarding, April 2, 2021, after a car crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by AP)

Leaders of the US House of Representatives are considering a $200 million budget to secure a permanent deployment of a National Guard quick reaction force (QRF) on the US Capitol to immediately combat future emergencies in Washington, DC.

The so-called Emergency Security Supplemental to Respond to January 6th Appropriations Act was introduced on Friday by Connecticut Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro and includes $1.9 billion in funding to respond to the January 6 insurrection by right-wing crowds demanding the annulment of the 2020presidential polls won by current US President Joe Biden.

The legislation follows recommendations by a task force that examined the US Capitol's security measures and includes a large list of resources for law enforcement agencies and enhanced security features, the US-based reported Friday.

"This emergency supplemental appropriation addresses the direct costs of the insurrection and strengthens Capitol security for the future," said a statement issued by DeLauro, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations. "It is also long overdue recognition of the work of the Capitol Police, the sacrifices that they and their families have made, and the changes they need."

According to the report, the proposed package further includes $521 million to cover the ongoing costs of the Guard deployment at the Capitol, which is currently expected to end May 23. There are nearly 2,000 troops involved in Capitol security.

It is not clear, however, whether a quick reaction mission would solely rely on the DC National Guard or if the mission would need to rotate other states in, putting a new deployment in the list of activations the Guard is juggling, which includes places such as Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

"It is the responsibility of Congress to pay for the costs incurred by the National Guard," added Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum in a statement. "We also need to be prepared should another attack on our democracy occur and not expect the Capitol Police and the DC Metropolitan Police Department to do it alone."

According to the report, US President Joe Biden would essentially need to declare a permanent state of emergency in D.C. in order for Guardsmen to earn federal benefits such as the GI Bill if they stay on Title 32 orders. Under Title 32, the federal government picks up the tab, though the troops still fall under command of their respective states.

The development came as the mission on Capitol Hill has grown increasingly unpopular within the country’s both ruling political parties, the report added, noting that even the National Guard Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson “suggested in a memo that the mission is stretching the force too thin, given the lack of specific threats.”

Moreover, Biden's nominee to be the next secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, also believes that the National Guard may be stretched too thin and “nearing the breaking point after a year of nonstop activations.”

"I am concerned about the possibility of unreasonable demands [on] the Guard. I would want to look closely on how that strain is manifesting," Wormuth told senators at her confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Wormuth's concerns also mirror the remarks made last week by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville when he told lawmakers that a combination of two decades of war and activations at home might be too much.

"Our force has been heavily committed over the past 20 years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and around the world," McCoville underlined during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the service's budget. "My concern is we want to make sure we reduce the op tempo of our troops, including the National Guard who have been heavily employed, whether that's home or overseas."

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