Transcript

Department of Defense Statements on the Department's Response to Civil Unrest

June 2, 2020
Statements by Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant To The Secretary Of Defense For Public Affairs and General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau

MR. HOFFMAN: The -- just from our perspective at DOD [Department of Defense], just want to inform you that we have increased the force protection level at -- in the NCR [National Capital Region].  Basically, the Pentagon reservation and other facilities in the NCR.  This is a modest increase.  For the most part, we have been at that -- that level to some extent.

And so some changes happened.  Not dramatic, but just prudent planning on behalf of PFPA [Pentagon Force Protection Agency] and the services with bases in the area, based on activities.  So that's the -- the one major update that I have right now, and then I'm going to turn it over to General Lengyel who will walk you through the map of -- of what has taken place with the National Guard last night and today.

General Lengyel?

GEN. LENGYEL:  OK, thanks, Jonathan.

So, broad picture -- good morning, everybody, this is obviously a very historic response for the National Guard.  As I'm speaking to you, more than 100,000 Guardsmen and women are engaged across the homeland and in overseas missions -- that's a compilation of many missions.

Just in the homeland, more than 67,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting operations in every single state, three territories, and the District of Columbia in -- in some sense.  And this represents the largest domestic response since Hurricane Katrina.

More than 42,000 are still actively doing COVID operations.  All of those mission sets remain the same, and -- and doing that.  Another -- over 18,000 now in 29 states and the district are assisting law enforcement authorities.

Across the country, last night, it was a better night.  We saw a reduction in violence.  But broadly speaking, we saw sustained or even increasing levels of -- of protests.  And with 18,000 Guardsmen on duty -- and that number is still increasing.

You know, luckily, last night we saw no reports of injuries throughout the night to members of the National Guard.  We -- we obviously all saw the reports of law enforcement officials and the like, but none of that.

Here in D.C., the D.C. National Guard is obviously very engaged, supporting the local police in agencies throughout the district.  1,200 -- almost 1,300 National Guard just from D.C. were on duty.  And they were augmented last night by some additional soldiers from Utah and from New Jersey. 

And we expect that, today, an additional almost 1,500 National Guard members from other states -- Indiana, South Carolina, Tennessee -- will begin augmenting the District of Columbia National Guard.

I think the -- the civil unrest mission, for us, is obviously in our domestic portfolio, in our portfolio of missions we do here in the homeland, it is clearly one of our most difficult missions.  And frankly, probably the mission that we like doing the least. 

Probably the mission that you know, as we do domestic operations on a regular basis, whether they're hurricanes or floods or fires, I think this is potentially the most dangerous mission.  As we saw, you know, the other day, we had six National Guard members get injured.  Everybody's okay now from here in D.C., but it is clearly a difficult mission set that we do.

We strive to maintain that the troops are here to protect lives, to protect property, to preserve peace and public safety.  That's what we're trying to do, and we are uniquely suited to do this.  You know, the guard members live and work in these communities, we train and work with the police departments and the first responders and everybody in the response agency that's dealing with this under the command and – and orchestration of the local leadership and I would say that the National Guard is here to help and will be here to help as long as it goes.

You know, I -- I -- there was a Guardsman yesterday in one city that was on the front lines of enforcing, you know, the security issues and one of the protesters ...

(CROSSTALK)

... and the -- the ...

(CROSSTALK)

... I am home -- two blocks from here and so that's another reason the National Guard is kind of ...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN):  ... I'm sorry, I have to work now.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK, guys, somebody who is -- is not on mute, could you please double check, whoever is trying to make it clear that they are on a phone call?  Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN):  ... that whole part -- that whole part needs to be repeated because it was interrupted.

MR. HOFFMAN:  General, do you mind?

GEN. LENGYEL:  Sure.  Yeah, I think that if I could mention -- see where -- where I was thinking here.  You -- you know, the civil unrest mission is one of the most difficult and dangerous missions that we do.  Here in -- in our domestic portfolio of mission sets.

The – generally our units of members, you know, this mission is an uncomfortable mission, they don't like doing it but we can and -- we can do it.  Our primary purpose obviously is to protect life, to protect property, to preserve peace, to preserve public safety.  Those are the things we do in our non-federalized role as the special part of the DOD that -- that we are.

You know, our Guard members live and work and are from these communities -- I don't know if you can hear me now, there's some more hot mic out there -- but the anecdote that I relayed was a -- a protester yelled at a Guardsman who was there and said that someone was telling him to go home and the soldier responded "I am home, I live two blocks away from here."

And so, you know, so that’s the reason sometimes this is a difficult mission for us.  So I think I will stop there and -- and turn it back over to Jonathan and we'll take questions but we're going to keep doing this, you know, as long as our states and our governors need us to do it.

You know, this is a -- and -- like I said -- as I mentioned, 29 states and others looking and posturing for bringing additional National Guard members on duty to -- to be able to provide support for this civil unrest mission.  It's -- it's still ongoing as I speak.