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In May and June 2020, units and elements from several states and Washington, D.C. deployed to Washington, D.C. in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities role to provide support for domestic civilian law enforcement. This special study is in response to an 11 June 2020 request by the Secretary of Defense to organize and lead a Department of Defense (DOD) after action review of the National Guard’s actions during that time. Over a 10-day period, the Center for Army Lessons Learned conducted interviews with key leaders at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to determine what went well, areas needing improvement, and the responsible agent for improvements. During these interviews, the Center for Army Lessons Learned identified crosscutting issues that merit further consideration that include the following:

  • Robust contingency planning will enable a more effective National Guard response.
  • Clear command and control relationships and tactical command and control nodes are critical.
  • Effective use of liaisons is essential to success.
  • More readily available civil disturbance equipment is required.
  • Public affairs efforts require more people to be effective.
  • Civil disturbance training is not just for military police units.

Clearly the National Guard remains the force best suited to conduct civil disturbance operations. Because of the emerging crisis and compressed timeline, trained and ready Guardsmen deployed from their homes to the point of need provided timely and professional support to multiple interagency organizations. Likewise, the Air National Guard’s response to the event exemplified the unique partnership between the Army and Air National Guard, and demonstrated the synergistic coordination and support that are possible during crisis events.

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