Washington, DC – The National Guard has tapped military police units in Alabama and Arizona to be ready to deploy within 24 hours if help is requested by a governor from another state.
Officials haven’t specifically said that they are readying the National Guard for the expected onslaught of protests ahead of and after the November election, but most major cities are bracing for rioting, the Associated Press reported.
The military police units will serve as rapid reaction forces to respond to civil unrest in cities across the nation, Stars and Stripes reported.
The move came after U.S. Department of Defense and National Guard leaders began to address shortfalls in the military response to the protests in June.
Assessments of the June incidents showed problems with coordination between various local, state, and federal governments and law enforcement agencies, Stars and Stripes reported.
The review found that response times and troop movements took longer due to the lack of organization.
National Guard leaders have purchased more than $200,000 in new riot gear for their troops ahead of the expected unrest, the Associated Press reported.
They have also increased the amount of training members of the National Guard get on proper procedures in dealing with violent protesters.
“Coordination and communication were the probably the things that we’ll look back on and see very challenging,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the Associated Press.
McCarthy said 11 states stepped up and volunteered to provide support for other states and the nation’s capital in June.
“But the problem with that is how quickly can you marshal them together, ensure they have the appropriate training, ensure they have the appropriate equipment, understand the task you’re going to give them?” McCarthy explained. “It’s American streets. It could turn violent. It was an incredibly challenging thing.”
National Guard troops can be deployed by a governor to assist with natural disasters, border control, and civil unrest, among other things, the Associated Press reported.
Governors use their own troops first, then request more from their region, but can eventually receive assistance from members of the National Guard all over the country if more are needed.
Lieutenant General Mark Sasseville, vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, called it a graduated approach, the Associated Press reported.
“That makes sense because typically the states have good relations with the neighboring states,” Sasseville said. “Speed becomes an element of this discussion.”
He said the National Guard’s system ran into problems in June because some states couldn’t send help because they were dealing with too much unrest inside their own borders, the Associated Press reported.
At the peak of the protests in early summer, 43,000 National Guard troops were deployed across 34 states and the District of Columbia.
Sasseville explained that designating rapid reaction forces ahead of the expected protests meant that those units would have the aircraft on hand ready to deploy troops to another state on 24 hours’ notice.
Officials said that Arizona National Guard troops would respond to problems in the Western half of the country, and Alabama National Guard troops would be deployed to trouble spots on the Eastern side of the United States, the Associated Press reported.
About 300 members of the National Guard have been deployed from each of the two states for the quick response units.
If National Guard troops become overwhelmed and cannot provide enough support to law enforcement, President Donald Trump can invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy active-duty U.S. military forces to stop the riots on domestic soil, according to the Associated Press.
Senior military leaders opposed making that move during the riots in June.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the time that he believed the Insurrection Act should be used “only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”
“We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper said.