Unlike the National Guards of all fifty states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia National Guard is never under local control. Instead, it reports directly to the president. This unusual command structure is a relic left over from before Washington, D.C. had any local government, and it creates two serious problems. First, it leaves a dangerous loophole in the Posse Comitatus Act. That vulnerability was abused in June 2020, when the president exploited his control over the D.C. Guard to effectively federalize large numbers of state National Guard troops without following the procedures established by Congress in the Insurrection Act. Second, the current command structure, which has become heavily bureaucratized, can inhibit the rapid deployment of the D.C. Guard in a real crisis. We saw this scenario play out on January 6, when the Guard’s response to the riot at the Capitol lagged hours behind the D.C. Mayor’s dispatch of the Metropolitan Police.
The Brennan Center urges Congress to pass the District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act, which solves both of these problems by transferring control over the D.C. Guard from the president to the Mayor of Washington, D.C.