Guardsmen stationed at U.S. Capitol building to get cots





Images from impeachment day on the hill

Members of the National Guard rest inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. | Stephen Voss for Politico

The National Guardsmen providing security in the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration are soon getting cots, after images went viral last week of troops sleeping on the floor in the halls of Congress, according to four people familiar with the decision.

Guard spokesman Wayne Hall confirmed Saturday that Federal Emergency Management Agency received a formal request through the D.C. Emergency Operations Center for more than 1,200 cots “to provide comfort for members of the National Guard supporting law enforcement and the upcoming presidential inauguration in D.C.”

The Army is coordinating the effort with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, said a Guardsman familiar with the planning. Officials will collect cots from National Guard armories in Maryland and Virginia and transport them to the Capitol, the person said.

Many officials believe the cots are unnecessary, but the photos of Guardsmen resting on the floor of the Capitol quickly became a “PR issue,” the person said — particularly after more than a dozen House Democrats called Thursday on the Army Secretary to send cots, bedding, shower facilities and other resources.

“Most everyone’s opinion is that we honestly don’t need them,” the person said, noting that “this is one of the nicest napping spots most of us have ever had in uniform.”

The cots will arrive Saturday and Sunday, the person said, adding that no costs should be incurred aside from the time and transportation.

A Jan. 15 memo obtained by POLITICO cited guidance from Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville that Guardsmen “who are resting inside the U.S. Capitol Building are to lay on a cot, and not on the ground.” The guidance was confirmed separately by a D.C. National Guardsman, who celebrated the news.

“No more cold marble!” the Guardsman said.

A defense official stressed that McConville did not order Guardsmen to rest on cots, rather that he directed the Army to provide the troops “whatever they need to accomplish the mission and to take care of their life support needs.”

In a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Thursday, a group of lawmakers said they were “disappointed” by images posted to social media of soldiers resting in the Capitol Rotunda, the Capitol Visitor Center and elsewhere as thousands of Guardsmen poured into DC to support local law enforcement responding to threats of violence ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration.

“With the uncertainty for needed rest and recoup time in flux, and to ensure that the Guard members are fully able to execute their protection mission, we urge you to make available cots or other equipment to more easily facilitate their ability to rest while they are on Capitol grounds,” the lawmakers wrote.

More than 21,000 Guardsmen will be deployed to D.C. by Inauguration Day to support law enforcement responding to the protests.

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