Department of Defence officials and civilian authorities have repeatedly played down fears that the US National Guard could be called in to enforce martial law in one or more jurisdictions of the United States in response to the coronavirus pandemic, dismissing claims to the contrary as “false” and akin to “conspiracy theories.”
The Pentagon quietly activated a 10,000 troop-strong task force to secure Washington, DC in case of an emergency over a month ago and never informed the public about it, Newsweek has reported, citing a senior military officer said to be engaged in continuity of government planning, as well as three military sources familiar with United States Northern Command planning.
The force, known as Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR), takes its marching orders from Pentagon chief Mark Esper. It’s commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Omar J Jones IV, commander of the Military District of Washington, ordinarily a largely ceremonial unit engaging in parades and duties at the Arlington National Cemetery.
In an emergency, its duties are said to include evacuating government leaders from the capital, as well as “securing” the city and engaging in “homeland defence” against potential enemies both foreign and domestic, including protecting Washington, DC’s airspace and dealing with civil unrest. Its area of operations is said to include the District of Columbia and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia.