U.S. Capitol Police officials told congressional leaders that the razor wire topped fencing around the Capitol building should remain in place until September, according a recent report.
The police officials suggested that the fence remain in part because investigators are tracking continuing threats against lawmakers and the Capitol complex, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press on Thursday.
According to the report, the threats “range in specificity and credibility, but they include online chatter about extremist groups potentially returning to Washington and to the Capitol in the coming weeks.”
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman has recommended permanent fencing, the AP reported.
“I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” she said in a statement late last month.
FOX5 recently reported that the Biden National Security Council is asking the Defense Department to engage Capitol Police on National Guard troop support to the Capitol that could last through fall.
According to an email obtained by FOX 5, Robert Salesses, who began Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security on January 20, 2021, wrote (emphasis added):
If it’s not possible to sustain at the current level with [National Guard] personnel, we need to establish the number of NG personnel (DCNG and out-of-state) we can sustain for an extended period – at least through Fall 2021 – and understand additional options for providing DoD support, to include use of reserve personnel, as well as active component.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told Fox News that plans to wind down the National Guard mission in mid-March have not changed yet, but it is always being evaluated.
“The plan right now is to end this mission in the capital region by about the middle of March. That’s still the plan. And that’s what we have sort of resourced ourselves out to,” Kirby said to Fox News’s Neil Cavuto.
“We’re obviously constantly in touch with the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and D.C. officials about the need, about the requirement. And we’re always evaluating it,” he added.
Kirby confirmed, however, that there were internal discussions about “hypothetical potential future operations.”
“We plan for all kinds of contingencies that actually don’t ever happen. And so there was some internal discussions about, well, what if we needed to keep them longer? What would that look like? That’s what we’re expected to do,” he said.
He said he did not want to discuss intelligence about what threats there may be, but said troops would be sent home as soon as they are no longer needed.
There are currently about 6,000 National Guard members who are in the capital supporting the Capitol Police. That number is scheduled to reduce to 5,000 by mid-March.
The Pentagon recently disclosed the cost to American taxpayers for the deployment of National Guard forces to the Capitol is an estimated $483 million through mid-March. It is not clear when the mission will actually end or what the final costs will be.
The National Guard mission to protect the Capitol building began on January 6 after some pro-Trump supporters broke into the building or engaged in violence with police.
The Pentagon authorized 7,000 National Guard forces that day. After that, federal and local authorities requested more than 26,000 National Guard members to secure the January 20 inauguration. The number was slated to drop to 7,000 at the end of February and further down to 5,000 by mid-March.
More than 40 Republican lawmakers have signed a letter calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove the fence and the National Guard forces.
“It’s time for healing and it’s time for the removal of the fencing so the nation may move forward,” the letter read.