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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Submits Testimony on Her Amendment to Give D.C. Mayor Local Authority Over D.C. National Guard, Markup Tomorrow

Jul 11, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released Norton’s testimony on her amendment to the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810) to give the District of Columbia home-rule authority over the D.C. National Guard.  Norton filed her amendment at the House Rules Committee, which is considering H.R. 2810 tomorrow.  Norton’s amendment is the same text as her bill, the District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act, which would give the D.C. mayor the authority that the chief executive of states and territories have over their Guards.  The mayor would be able to deploy the D.C. National Guard during local emergencies, including natural disasters and civil disturbances unrelated to national or homeland security.  The President of the United States would retain final authority over federal security and other federal matters.  Currently, the President controls the D.C. National Guard for both national and local purposes.

In her prepared testimony, Norton said, “My amendment would modernize the command structure of the District of Columbia National Guard and improve its ability to respond to local natural and man-made disasters and emergencies, while preserving its unique mission of protecting the federal government... Only the Mayor has the necessary expertise and knowledge of the District to make the best decisions on when and how to deploy the D.C. Guard for local matters.”

Norton’s full testimony is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Committee on Rules
Amendment to H.R. 2810, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018
July 11, 2017

My amendment would modernize the command structure of the District of Columbia National Guard and improve its ability to respond to local natural and man-made disasters and emergencies, while preserving its unique mission of protecting the federal government.  The command structure of the D.C. National Guard is an anachronistic anomaly. 

Every state, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands also have Guards.  While each of these 53 Guards is a hybrid local-federal organization, they largely operate under local control.  Governors are the heads of their respective Guards, and can activate the Guard for local purposes, while the President has the authority to federalize the Guard for federal purposes.  In contrast, the D.C. Guard is under the exclusive control of the President, for both local and federal purposes. 

My amendment would give the Mayor of the District of Columbia virtually the same authority over the D.C. Guard that governors have over their Guards.  Only the Mayor has the necessary expertise and knowledge of the District to make the best decisions on when and how to deploy the D.C. Guard for local matters.  The President’s job is not to keep in touch with the ever-changing local needs and circumstances of the District.  That is the job of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, a locally elected official.

We, of course, recognize that the D.C. Guard plays a unique role as the Guard for the nation’s capital.  Therefore, under my amendment, the Mayor, unlike governors, would have no authority to activate the Guard for homeland defense purposes.  Instead, the President would retain exclusive control over the D.C. Guard to conduct homeland defense activities.

When the D.C. Guard was created in the early 1800s, D.C. did not have home rule, but in 1973 Congress gave the District a locally elected government.  While it was understandable that the Home Rule Act of 1973 preserved the President’s total authority over the D.C. Guard, because D.C. then had no experience with self-rule, D.C. now has more than 40 years of such experience.  It is long past time to modernize the command structure of the D.C. Guard to ensure the safety of D.C. residents.

  I urge you to make my amendment in order.

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