Transcript

Department of Defense Officials Brief Reporters on the Department's Response to Civil Unrest

June 1, 2020
Two Senior Defense Officials

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So very briefly to let you understand that this evening the Department has been working with the Department of Justice and other officials in the city of Washington, D.C. to provide sufficient forces for protecting the city in maintaining peace this evening. The stated goal is to help the city with their -- with their needs.

The National Guard forces in the District of Columbia have been fully activated, so that's about 1,200 National Guard, a little bit more than 1,200. Additionally, there have been National Guard forces requests have been made to other states to supplement that number. At this time, there are five states that are -- are sending troops that will be on the ground either now or by around midnight tonight. Those are Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Utah that are sending additional forces. So we're providing that at this time.

[ED. NOTE: The State of New York did not send National Guard troops to the District of Columbia.]

I'll also note that has as we have talked about earlier this week that there are forces that were placed on a shortened alert status. I believe that there was a four-hour alert status. Those forces have been placed on an even shorter alert status and have been located in the NCR, but not in the District of Columbia at this time. They are not, at this moment, being deployed into D.C. and they are not, at this time, going to be used for any law enforcement activities. They have just been placed on a much heightened alert status that will allow them to respond more quickly.

The Secretary and the Chairman and the Secretary of the Army who, as you guys know, is the head of the -- the D.C. Guard are working with Attorney General Barr who is the lead at the federal level for the response. They are co-located at DOJ facility this evening as they work to coordinate the response.

The -- the on-the-ground lead for DOD with respect to the troops that we have is Lieutenant General Walker from the D.C. Guard. I believe and you guys can double check because I think from the DOJ side -- he's a two-star, sorry, two-star general. From the DOJ side, I think they -- I believe they placed the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia as kind of their point person. That being said, the Attorney General and Secretary Esper will be heavily involved in -- in the activities tonight.

So, at that point, I will -- I will stop and open it up to questions because I'm sure you will have many of them and see -- see what we can get. And we'll take as many questions as we can until the President goes on. And then if you want, we can -- we can hang on a little bit and take some more afterwards.

So we'll go ahead and start. Is Bob on, Bob or Lita?

Q: Hi, I'm on.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Right, go ahead.

Q: Can you tell us, first of all, what the round numbers -- total number of National Guard troops from those five states, what that total is? And then our understanding is also that members of the 82nd Airborne have also been put on sort of a short response time frame. Do you know if that battalion will also be coming up to D.C.?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So, you can correct me if I'm wrong here on the numbers, but there's 1,200 D.C. National Guard forces and somewhere in the range of 600 to 800 from other states that may be on the ground this evening.

Is that correct?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: That is correct, yes.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: And then with regard to the 82nd, I'm not going to get into specific -- specific units that are -- have been placed on the -- the heightened alert status as I've said repeatedly this week, so I'm not going to have any update for you on that right now.

Q: Hey, it's Tom Bowman.

I have heard Mayor Bowser's name mentioned. Has she been in contact with the President or the Secretary about this? And is she requesting this assistance or is the D.C. Guard requesting this or is this coming from the White House?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So I -- so I thought I'd mentioned that early on, but yes, the -- the Secretary of the Army in his role as the -- the head of the D.C. National Guard has been in constant contact with the -- with the Mayor's office. I don't want to -- I -- I don't want to characterize those conversations, but -- but my understanding is that additional forces, National Guard forces have -- have been requested. And yes, that's -- that's where I'd have to leave that. I -- I don't have any more insight into those conversations, Tom.

Q: Okay. And as far as the active forces, the number and from where?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Like I said, I'm not going to get into identifying the units or the numbers at this point.

Q: Give us a ballpark number. Are we talking hundreds, several hundreds?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Nope, I'm not going to get into the -- the numbers or units or locations at this point?

Q: This is Jennifer Griffin.

Can you just clarify this is not federalizing the National Guard, this is still Guard that are being mobilized because of request from the D.C. Mayor?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Well, so -- so in this case -- and, [SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2], you can talk to the specifics on the legality of this, but D.C. is a little bit different because of the relationship. The -- the President -- actually, the head of the National Guard in D.C. who's delegated that authority to the Secretary of Defense has delegated to the Secretary of the Army previously. So it is -- we are nationalizing the National Guard forces.

So -- but, [SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2], if you want to get a little more detail on that.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: Quite simply the -- the D.C. National Guard always does its missions for the district in the same 502(f) status, which is federally funded on your the control, not Title 10 control, but under the control of the local authority, in this case, delegated to the Secretary of the Army.

The troops -- the soldiers coming from the other states will also be in that same status, so federally funded status but not Title 10, it's Title -- it's Title 32.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Okay, right.

Next one, we'll keep going. Anybody from Reuters on?

Q: Hey, it's Phil, yeah, I was going to try and just -- I know you're not going to talk about specific numbers and locations, but are these -- these active-duty units, can you say that they're M.P.s?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So I believe I had stated that over the weekend that it was a mix of M.P. and engineering forces. I am not aware of other units at this time, so those are the only ones that I'm aware of right now.

Right. We'll keep going. CNN, Barbara or Ryan?

Q: Just go over this one more time. You talked -- I -- I missed two things because of multitasking, sorry. Who's going to be in this command center tonight again from your side that you talked about?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So Major General Walker, who is the D.C. TAG, is going to be the -- the responsible party who is going to be in charge of -- of the -- the D.C. or the National Guard forces that are on the ground in the district.

Q: But in terms of active-duty, you said --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Well, so, at this point -- so, at this point, no active-duty have been deployed for -- for any of these efforts. So at this point, we do not have -- they are not --

Q: Okay.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: -- integrated into the response at this point. They have not been deployed.

Q: But you have them in the National Capital Region, right? You said that, right?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Yes, yes, we do have them in the Capital Region. Hold on one second, Barbara.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: Hey. I -- I rejoined the call.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Hey, [SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2].

Barbara, let me -- let me get back to you on that. They are here in the -- in the NCR. I just need to confirm whether they are -- they're going to be under MDW or they're under their normal command until they are handed over if deployed. I believe it is the latter, but I need to double-check with you on that.

Q: Okay. You could just e-mail it. Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Okay. And then with regard to who else is in the command, obviously, the Secretary, Chairman Milley providing advice to the Secretary, and then with Secretary McCarthy, as the head of the D.C. Guard, will be there as well.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: All right. So we'll keep going, Fox, Jennifer?

Q: Yes.

I see General Milley outside standing behind what -- or it looks like he's observing some of the M.P.s who are stationed in front of the White House. Are those M.P.s from the National Guard? They are not from the active-duty that we have been hearing about. And is General Milley any sort of when the President said this morning that he is in control? What's his -- what was he referring to?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So there are no active-duty forces deployed in the -- in -- in the NCR and in the District of Columbia in any type of law enforcement situation right now. So all of the -- the -- the uniformed members you were seeing at this point are National Guard forces almost uniformly from the District of Columbia. Right now, there may be a few from -- there are a couple other states sprinkled in early this evening with more later this evening. So none of the ones in uniform you see right now are active-duty.

With regard to the -- the President's comment on -- on General Milley, I -- I think it was kind of a general comment based on a conversation and in context to the conversation they've been having about -- about how the -- the -- the National Guard troops were -- were going to be used.

And General Milley is -- is an advisor to the President and he's an adviser to the Secretary of Defense. His role has not changed. His authorities have not changed. He will obviously maintain in that position and continue providing the Secretary and the President an advice.

All right. We'll keep going, ABC?

Q: Hey.

You -- you mentioned this task force that Attorney General Barr and Army Secretary McCarthy are going to be running. Is this the Joint Terrorism Task Force? And are they the ones that are going to be in tactical control of what happens in D.C. tonight in addition to what the General -- General Walker would be doing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So, Luis, I would have to refer you over to the DOJ as to what the -- the -- the name of the task force is. I -- I -- I don't believe it is under the existing Joint Terrorism Task Force. I think this is a -- a separate effort dedicated to protecting national monuments, protecting infrastructure, protecting property life in the district. So I -- I don't -- I don't have the answer for you what that is. And I -- I would just refer you over to DOJ, and I -- I can check with them as well.

Q: And so that is their mission, they're going to be protecting national monuments, the White House, anything else. Any other parts of town?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Yeah, they will be -- I don't -- I don't have the exhaustive list, but I think that that would be a -- a starting point -- monuments, White House property and generally helping the -- the D.C. police and D.C. law enforcement respond to any threats on life.

All right. We'll keep going, Tara Copp?

Q: Hey, thanks so much for doing this.

Can you clarify for us, has the White House or the President invoked the Insurrection Act? Are there any discussions that that act will be invoked to allow the active-duty forces to participate in law enforcement?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So I can just tell you, at this time, the Insurrection Act has not been invoked. I would refer you to the White House for -- for what is under consideration. As you -- as you know, the Insurrection Act would have to be invoked by the President himself, so I'll have to refer you to -- to them for -- for input as to what he may be or may not be considering at this time.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Okay. We'll keep going. Let's see. David Martin? Okay. NBC? Okay. Washington Post?

Q: Hi, it's Missy.

Can you -- can you just clarify the status of the National Guard in Washington in regards to whether or not they have been armed and whether or not they will be armed going forward? Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: I'll defer -- I'll defer to [SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2] on that. 

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: I think that, you know, not all of them will be carrying lethal weapons, some will, some -- some have the authority should the President decide to arm them. And my understanding is that there are some members of this task force out there tonight in support of the local law enforcement that we will be armed. Over.

Q: Sir, you said that should the President decide to arm them, has the President decided to arm them? I'm -- I'm just unclear on what the status has been up until now and whether that has changed or not to date with their development.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: I -- I think that I'm going to -- I'm -- I'm not exactly sure what parts of the force will be armed, so I'm not going to -- I'm not going to say any more about that right now.

Okay. Okay. All right. Let's -- let's keep going. Lara Seligman, Politico?

Q: Hey. Thanks for doing this.

I just want to clarify it when you said that there were a couple hundred of other forces that were being deployed, but aren't going to be used on a -- on a law enforcement capacity. Are these the active-duty military police units or are they different a unit? Can you just clarify that please?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Can you say that one more time? Can you repeat that? Sorry, I didn't follow.

Q: Yeah, sure. 

The other -- a couple hundred additional forces that you talked about in the beginning that are being deployed --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Those are all National Guard. Those are all National Guard forces from supporting states, so they have been asked and they have agreed to supply forces to the District of Columbia to be -- to support the District of Columbia National Guard.

Q: Okay. So what about the reports of the active-duty military police units that are being deployed to the National Capital Region that I think you said they were going to be used in a law enforcement role, but can you just clarify that please?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So as I said earlier on, those -- the -- there are forces that we discussed over the weekend that were being placed on a short alert status -- a four-hour alert status. Their alert status has been moved up, and they are now positioned in the NCR, but they have not been deployed. And -- and at this time that the -- the hope and -- is that given the additional number of National Guard forces, the initial number of police forces -- one thing I don't think I believe I mentioned earlier is that the efforts of DOJ to identify additional law enforcement -- federal law enforcement, 1811 personnel who will be assisting throughout the evening as well, the hope and expectation is that -- that calling out additional active-duty forces will not be necessary.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Hey, can I ask a quick follow-up on the --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Yeah.

Q: -- clarification? Is Barr, McCarthy, Esper, Milley and General Walker will all be at the Justice Department tonight?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Yes, I'm sure there'll be other people there, but those are the ones. I believe the -- the U.S. attorney for -- and correct me -- you guys can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia is the DOJ lead counterpart for -- for General Walker, I believe, he’ll be there as well.

All right. We'll keep going. (T.M.?), if you're on. Any -- any -- anybody from The New York Times?

Anybody from the Wall Street Journal?

All right. Anybody from Bloomberg?

Q: Yeah. Hey, Tony Capaccio. Can you hear me?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Yes, Tony.

Q: A couple of questions. What did the Secretary mean on that -- on that call to the governors when he said they -- they -- well, we need to dominate the battle space? Well, what did -- what did he mean by that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So as you guys know, at the Department, we -- we often communicate in a parlance that is -- is unique to -- to our profession. And as you can see from the activities that we are being asked to undertake at this point, these are -- this is an unusual activity for -- for the Department and, fortunately, is an unusual activity. So we don't have exact terms for -- for -- for this civilian context. So the term the Secretary uses is just a general term for the area in which we are operating, whether that's in air, sea, land, cyberspace. That's -- that's a general benign term that we often use.

So I don't see anything from his -- his -- his use of that term. And I don't think anybody should take anything from it. It's just the -- the general parlance of describing the area in which we're operating.

Q: Okay, one -- one other follow-up to that. That's a good explanation. Thanks. Is -- is the Pentagon providing any aerial surveillance over the district by way of helicopters or low-flying prop planes?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: I -- I -- I can get back to you on that, Tony. I don't -- I don't have any answer for you. I believe that the capitol police -- sorry, capitol police -- the D.C. police have a -- a number of assets of their own to make use of, and there are other federal law enforcement assets available at this time. So I'm -- I'm not familiar with any -- any DOD assets being used for that purpose.

Q: Okay, but, [SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2], sir, can you give us a rundown of some of the non-lethal weaponry your -- your Guardsmen are equipped with?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: The D.C. Guardsmen don't have any real non-lethal equipment with them. They -- they have, you know, with them protective masks and -- and the rest. And as I said, I -- I do believe some -- some of them will -- will have lethal weapons, but they're not carrying any Tasers or -- or any of those kind of things tonight. Over.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Okay. Is there anybody else who hasn't had an opportunity to ask a question that I missed?

Q: May I jump in?

I have just one quick follow-up to [SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2]. It looks like some of the Guardsmen are holding shields the same military police. And I was just wondering identifying them as military police does not possibly confuse people as to whether these are active-duty forces on them. And -- and if you can explain the use of the shields with the military police label.

Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 2: So we do have military police units that are out there as part of this D.C. National Guard and are out there today. You know, I -- I don't think, you know, we have lots of those in the National Guard. And so it's -- it's not unusual that we would -- would have those out there. Over.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: I think there's some (inaudible).

Q: (Inaudible).

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Another question.

Q: Can I ask one quick follow-up?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Of course, you can.

Q: Oh, thank you.

With -- okay, so go back to this task force. So Barr, McCarthy, Walker, Esper at the Justice Department tonight is not the task force itself, they're just -- they're just also there, but you have this new task force where McCarthy is your person. And is he the -- is he -- what is the mission of that task force and who decides when active-duty forces would then be used? What is the precise mission of the task force?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: So -- so, Barbara, I just -- let me get back to you on that. I believe what were you describing as a task force is -- is more accurately a -- like a command-and-control center.

Q: Okay.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: And I think it's -- it's been more described as the command-and-control nexus of -- of the efforts to respond to a potential protester. So I think I -- I've described it the way we see it as of having the -- the -- the federal law enforcement leadership, which is the U.S. attorney, the -- the military leadership which, in this case, would be General Walker along with the D.C. leadership -- police leadership in one place so that we can respond.

And I don't want to get into the -- the DOJ aspect of it. But if -- but if you look at DOJ in terms of federal law enforcement, you've got to have one place that coordinates the efforts of FBI, ATF, Secret Service, CBP, Federal Protection Services --

Q: So who's to decide -- so who's the deciding authority if you were to put active-duty on the state?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: The President of the United States would be the deciding authority for that.

Q: So a decision to put active-duty on the streets of Washington has to go to the President?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: A decision to put active-duty troops on the -- on the streets would have -- would have to be made by the President at this point. And so --

Q: Okay.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: -- I -- like I said, we have a significant National Guard presence. We have a significant federal law enforcement. The -- the local police have stepped up efforts and -- and our hope and -- and expectation is that that can be avoided. And we're going to be prepared, but we're -- we're working to ensure that the National Guard has the support they need to be able to handle the mission tonight.

All right, guys, it's --

Q: So it's Lita. Can I ask one quick clarification?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Very quick.

Q: How -- how many of these active-duty troops are there roughly -- hundreds, thousands, whatever -- in the National Capital Region that you said are not currently in D.C.? These are their active-duty, correct?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL 1: Yeah, we have active -- like I said the active-duty forces have been placed on a shortened alert status to be prepared, if necessary. They have been geographically located in the NCR so that they can respond in a -- a shortened status or in a more rapid status. But as I said earlier, I'm not going to get into the units or the numbers or locations.

So all right, guys, it's 18:30. I've got to head out and -- and -- and get over to the -- the command center, but I will be in touch. If anything pops up, I will have my cell phone. Feel free to -- to e-mail the duty officer and others. But if you -- if you must, please feel free to reach out to me. I will get you information when I have it.

And once again, I apologize for -- for -- there's been a moving target today of trying to get you guys as much information as possible. So thank you guys.

Q: Thank you.