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Murphy asks Defense secretary to speed up military response to future attacks

Following reports it took the D.C. National Guard nearly four hours to arrive on the scene following last week's storming of the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is asking acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller to come up with a plan to speed up the military's response to less than an hour.

Murphy, joined by Democratic Sens. Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, wrote to Miller on Monday asking for changes to federal law and Pentagon protocols that would be needed to “reduce the response time to under an hour for a significant emergency deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces in support of federal authorities within the National Capitol Region.”

Murphy, during a news conference in Hartford on Monday, described a “cumbersome and laborious” approval process that took place last week as pro-Trump rioters invaded the Capitol building while Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, prompting the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, who has since resigned, to ask for help from the National Guard.

“It apparently included getting sign off from the board of directors of the Capitol Police,  a process that looks like it took at least 30 to 60 minutes,” Murphy said outside the state Capitol in Hartford.

While there were many "breakdowns" in the response to the attack, there hasn't been enough focus on "why it took so long for the United States military to get there," Murphy said. 

The D.C. Guard, unlike anywhere else in the country, does not report to a governor, but to the president, and the Pentagon chief must sign off on the deployment of the Guard in the capital.

Secretary Miller verbally authorized the activation of the entire D.C. Guard at 3:04 p.m. on Jan. 6, according to a timeline the Defense Department published Friday. It would take two more hours for most of the citizen soldiers to leave their jobs and homes, and pick up gear from the D.C. armory.

Pentagon officials have emphasized that the Capitol Police did not ask for D.C. Guard backup before the event or request to put a riot contingency plan in place with guardsmen at the ready. The officials have also pointed to the armed forces' restricted role in civil law enforcement — a point Murphy acknowledged Monday.

"We need to look at radical reform in the way that the Capitol is protected, in part because I don't think this insurgency is over," Murphy said. "I think you have to assume that this insurgency against the federal government is going to continue into 2021, and there will be many other moments at which the White House or the Capitol complex is at risk."

"Never again can it take four hours for the military to come to the defense of the Capitol or the White House," he said.

Murphy has questioned whether, the Guard, given its status as the citizen soldier, is best suited to respond to such emergencies.

"It may be that the protocols and structures that we have in place right now to defend the Capitol and the White House are wholly insufficient for this new movement that we exist in today when there is some kind of organized insurgency to the federal government that still exists and still presents a threat," he said.  

With the inauguaration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris less than 10 days away, the area in and around the Capitol is under heavy law enforcement presence.

Asked how confident he is in the security on Inauguration Day, Murphy said he's "worried that there is not yet a very clear, unified command structure for defense of the inauguration."

"If you look at the command structure that existed for prior inaugurations, and you hypothesize what would happen if there was an attack on the inauguration, you would find that there were a lot of people who had to say yes before a response was mustered, and so I think we're trying to fix that right now," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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