The Pentagon announced Friday that it has increased the number of National Guard troops authorized for inauguration security to 25,000, even as military officials scramble to find suitable quarters to house Guardsmen flooding into Washington, D.C.
"The Defense Department has agreed to provide up to 25,000 service members to support the Presidential Inauguration National Special Security Event ... led by the U.S. Secret Service," according to a National Guard Bureau news release. "The Department of the Army and the National Guard Bureau are working on a sourcing solution now to support this request."
Guard members from all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia are now scheduled to take part in the massive security effort for the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The announcement of the increase comes less than 24 hours after the Pentagon bumped up the Guard authorization from 15,000 to 21,000, highlighting the urgency of the U.S. military's response to the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, which forced lawmakers conducting the official count of Electoral College votes to stop and shelter in place.
The emergency deployment has resulted in large numbers of Guard troops occupying spaces in the Capitol and other buildings. Images of troops resting on the marble floors of Congress during breaks from 12-hour guard shifts have caused lawmakers and the public to question whether troops have a proper place to sleep.
Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Thursday, asking for the service to provide cots for the hundreds of Guard troops detailed to the U.S. Capitol Complex.
Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson and Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin assured congressional staff Thursday "that all of the 7,000 National Guard men and women currently in D.C. have appropriate lodging accommodations … and that the additional influx of troops for the inauguration will also have appropriate accommodations," a defense official told Military.com.
Currently, all 7,000 Guard members in D.C. are staying at local hotels contracted by the city, a National Guard official told Military.com.
Local hotels are likely to fill up, so the Pentagon is also considering D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center as a place to house troops. The center hosts the city's largest gatherings -- including the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
The Guard is also working with appropriate staff at the Capitol to give soldiers designated rooms for break areas, the defense official said.
"Our National Guard soldiers and airmen are set around the city to protect our nation's capital," Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in the statement. "At the same time, we have thousands around the country, supporting COVID operations, Operation Warp Speed, and a multitude of soldiers and airmen are deployed overseas supporting combat operations. ... I cannot be prouder to be part of this organization."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.