Defense secretary extends National Guard mission at US Capitol through May

The mission was supposed to end on Friday.

March 09, 2021, 9:02 PM

The defense secretary has extended the National Guard's security mission at the U.S. Capitol through May 23.

The mission to help secure the Capitol was supposed to end on Friday.

Now, 2,300 Guardsmen will continue to work with the Capitol Police and during this extended period will work to reduce the National Guard footprint at the Capitol, according to a statement from the Department of Defense. This represents a reduction of nearly 50% of the current support force.

PHOTO: A member of the National Guard patrols outside of the U.S. Capitol on March 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
A member of the National Guard patrols outside of the U.S. Capitol on March 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Capitol Police requested a 60-day extension last week, as the Capitol was on high alert after threats of another possible attack plot tied to March 4.

There are currently more than 5,000 National Guard members still in the city from a peak of 25,000 present for security at the Jan. 20 inauguration.

"We thank the National Guard for its support throughout this mission, as well as for its significant efforts across the nation in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement from Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

The need for the National Guard presence -- armed behind high fences topped with razor wire -- has become a focus of debate over how much security is needed around the Capitol going forward.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore on Monday released a study of Capitol security following the attack on Jan. 6 that said Congress should hire more Capitol Police officers to boost the overstretched ranks of the department and provide them with better equipment, training and support.

The House is expected to incorporate Honore's findings into a new funding bill to boost security around the campus and pay for some of the expenses incurred after Jan. 6 -- such as the National Guard deployments and the cleanup and repair costs.

Honore briefed members of Congress on his team's findings and recommendations Monday.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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