WASHINGTON — It cost at least $18.2 million to have National Guard troops come to D.C. to quell protests in early June. But that number is likely quite a bit higher, as the Guard can't tell us how much it spent on travel costs for this mission yet.
For the first time, we are hearing from Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, President Trump's nominee to lead the country's citizen soldiers, as he testified before Congress during his confirmation hearing.
Shortly after 5,100 guardsmen deployed to protests in the District, Hokanson gave senators his thoughts on the National Guard's role in this mission. As citizens demanded justice after the death of George Floyd, citizen soldiers with full gear and military trucks monitored the situation.
“This is an important and pivotal time in the history of our National Guard,” Hokanson told senators. “We face complex, dynamic missions overseas and here at home.”
Here at home, we've learned the millions it cost to have soldiers and airmen in the District breaks down to $531.48 per guardsmen, per day, including pay, allowances and per diem, for lodging and meals. Though travel costs are still being tallied, we do know guardsmen used military planes and buses to get to D.C.
They came from 11 states -- Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah -- to join D.C. guardsmen.
Photos from DC protests over George Floyd's death
“As part of a national call for justice and racial equality, our soldiers and airmen were there to protect our first amendment rights and preserve public safety in the communities where we live,” Hokanson said.
He described the mission to help law enforcement with civil unrest as “a good news story.”
But there have been questions about how the Guard operated in the District. For example, right now the D.C. National Guard is investigating whether a military helicopter flew "at inappropriately low altitudes" and whether they followed "safety standards and flying procedures."
Hokanson says he'll "fully participate in the review."
Still, senators wanted answers about future deployments to protests if Hokanson is confirmed as the next National Guard leader.
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“How would you ensure that guardsmen clearly understand the type of orders under which they have been activated and the activities that are within the scope of their mission?" Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked.
“They're called to duty by their governors,” Hokanson responded. “We rely heavily on our states' Adjutants General to make sure that they are properly trained and equipped for anything that they're asked to do and one of those includes de-escalatory measures ... My pledge to you is that we will always operate with accordance of the laws and policies and frankly, the expectations of our citizens.”
Hokanson still has to be confirmed by the full Senate, but the hearing was mostly positive.
We'll keep pushing for answers to get a full dollar accounting of exactly how much it cost taxpayers to have the National Guard in D.C. to respond to protests.