A source inside the National Guard deployed to Washington DC has confirmed to SOFREP that soldiers have been sworn in as deputy U.S. Marshals in preparation for tomorrow’s presidential inauguration ceremony. The information corroborates several online accounts including a post from the official Twitter account of the U.S. Marshals.
According to the post, which was published yesterday morning, 2,000 National Guard soldiers were sworn into their new roles by Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Lamont Ruffin of the District of Columbia on January 17 in a ceremony on the National Mall. The post also states that deputizing the guardsmen gives them “temporary, limited, law enforcement authority pertaining specifically to the safety and protection of the inauguration and related events.”
Deputation of additional powers is not unique to this year’s proceedings. In 2017, 3,500 law enforcement officers from across the country were given the same temporary powers, according to a FOX5 report. But while the act of deputation itself isn’t new, the fact that National Guard soldiers — not trained law enforcement officers — have been tapped has raised some concern, especially as it comes at a time of unprecedented scrutiny of National Guard servicemembers.
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller acknowledged the heightened level of vetting in a statement released by the Pentagon on Monday. In the statement, Miller explained that “this type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events” but went on to say that “in this case the scope of military participation is unique.”
Yesterday afternoon, the commander of the DC National Guard Major General William Walker explained to ABC News that the National Guard members at the Capitol are screened before they leave their state in what he called a credentialing process. “They are screened repeatedly before actually being put on the street,” he said, acknowledging that the process involves background screening by the FBI and the Secret Service.
But while the mass screening process appears to be status quo for inauguration security details, nothing is known about the vetting process that would grant these 2,000 National Guard soldiers the legal authority to make arrests alongside local law enforcement and Capitol police. Our source has confirmed that most of those deputized are Military Police and that the majority were junior enlisted (E1 to E4) with some non-commissioned officers or sergeants. The mix appears to mirror the typical platoon structure of five to seven junior enlisted soldiers to every NCO.
This small bit of information is revealing on a tactical level. There are now some 25,000 National Guard troops patrolling the capital. Of those servicemembers, the vast majority are being tasked with controlling access and checkpoints as well as providing crowd control writ large. These soldiers are not authorized to make arrests or detentions. By deputizing 2,000 select soldiers — again, most of who are Military Police — the Joint Task Force is equipping these troops with the legal authority to enforce the law. This would be crucial in the event of a massive demonstration, protest, or an outbreak of violence.
In other words, these 2,000 soldiers will likely be spread around the city as acting law enforcement officers operating in conjunction with local authorities to detain and arrest anyone breaking the law. If this is the case, it would mean one in roughly every 12 soldiers would be legally authorized to make an arrest. This would expand the legal reach of the Task Force and allow federal and local law enforcement to install a wide lawful perimeter around the Capitol and the inauguration events.
But even with a large force in place, it’s conceivable that National Guardsmen on the front lines of the perimeter could be faced with highly nuanced, complex situations that would challenge even seasoned law enforcement officers. By deputizing them, the U.S. Marshals and the Task Force are placing extremely high demand on the capabilities and training of these soldiers.
Still, Major General Walker is confident that the National Guard is well trained and prepared to keep the peace. When asked by MSNBC about the potential for an outbreak of violence under his watch he replied coolly. “They won’t be successful. I think you can clearly see, [from] the number of armed Guardsmen in support of the Secret Service, the Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police… I believe it would be futile.”
“Stay at home,” he warned.