The National Guards were originally mobilized in logistical support for the Washington Police Force, and on Monday Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard’s office at the Pentagon, clarified that they had not yet been authorized to wear weapons.
The authorization given to the National Guard to carry arms and to make arrests would be a measure “of last resort” if the security situation were to spiral out of control, he said.
The change on Tuesday has no immediate explanation and the National Guard in Washington declined to comment.
But security experts have noted that President Donald Trump’s most extreme supporters have pledged on social media to march armed and threaten to resort to violence in Washington and other cities in the United States.
The Pentagon will mobilize some 15,000 National Guards on January 20, the day Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, while the most radical supporters of President Trump still refuse to acknowledge his defeat in the election last November.
Five people died on January 6 when pro-Trump protesters attacked and briefly occupied Capitol Hill, the seat of the US Congress, in an effort to prevent Joe Biden’s election victory from being certified by US parliamentarians.
The unarmed National Guard was then mobilized in Washington, but it intervened too late to support the Capitol Police.
The New York Times said on Tuesday that troops tasked with protecting Congress would be armed.