Senior Pentagon leaders approved deploying the National Guard to the U.S. Capitol more than three hours after the Capitol Police chief placed a “frantic” call to the head of the D.C. National Guard asking for help on Jan. 6, the D.C. Guard chief will testify Wednesday.
“At 1:49pm I received a frantic call from then Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster,” Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. Guard, said in written testimony released ahead of a Senate hearing Wednesday morning.
“Immediately after the 1:49pm call with Chief Sund, I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08pm — 3 hours and 19 minutes later,” Walker added.
Guard forces were already on buses ready to go to the Capitol when they were approved, and arrived at the building at 5:20 p.m., Walker said.
Walker is testifying at a joint hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees as part of an investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Trump intent on stopping lawmakers from certifying President Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
The hearing comes after Sund, who resigned shortly after the attack, and other law enforcement officials in a hearing last week faulted the Pentagon for being slow to deploy the National Guard on Jan. 6.
Before the attack, the D.C. National Guard had just 340 troops elsewhere in the city helping with traffic control.
In his written testimony, Walker said that while it would be customary for the National Guard to set up a “Quick Reaction Force” to respond in the event of an emergency, the approval he was given for the 340 Guardsmen also “withheld authority for me to employ the Quick Reaction Force.”
Then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy also required Walker to submit a “concept of operation” before the Quick Reaction Force could be used, according to Walker’s testimony.
“I found that requirement to be unusual as was the requirement to seek approval to move Guardsmen supporting MPD to move from one traffic control point to another,” Walker wrote, referring to D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Pentagon officials have defended their response time on Jan. 6, with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley saying this week that officials approved the request to the deploy the Guard in an hour.
“Over the weekend of January 2-3, 2021, Office of the Secretary of Defense staff, contacted the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, and the U.S. Capitol Police to determine if they planned to request assistance,” Salesses wrote. “None of these other law enforcement agencies indicated a need for DoD or National Guard support. The Acting Secretary of Defense met with select Cabinet Members on January 3 to discuss potential requirements for DoD support, and none were raised.”
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