Ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, US defense officials are conducting insider-threat screening on the 25,000 National Guard troops to make sure they do not pose a security risk, as concerns intensify about extremism in the ranks.
The extra precaution follows the Jan 6 riots at the Capitol building by outgoing President Donald Trump which turned out to have military ties.
Following investigations, it emerged that some of those involved had current or former ties to the military.
Defense officials say the Army is working with the FBI to vet all service members supporting the inauguration, although it was not immediately clear how extensive the FBI vetting of the military personnel would be.
The screening comes as thousands of troops in camouflage uniforms patrol the streets of the nation’s capital, which has turned into a fortress of security barriers and fences in the lead-up to the inauguration. Many of the guardsmen are armed, but they often do not have magazines loaded in their rifles.
Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said in an interview with Defense One that the screening represented an “extra layer” of security for this deployment, on top of the continuous monitoring that the U.S. military does of its service members.
“For this deployment everybody is screened additionally, but it’s more of a reassurance, because we do everything we can do [to] know our Guardsmen, our soldiers and airmen,” Walker said.
Much of Washington resembles a fortified compound in a war zone, with most of the downtown area blocked off, security fences topped by razor wire and about 25,000 National Guard troops deployed to the capital.