As part of yesterday's insurrection response, VA Governor Northam sent his National Guard into D.C.:

Virginia is sending reinforcements to help law enforcement in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Wednesday afternoon that he is mobilizing members of the Virginia National Guard, as well as 200 Virginia state troopers.

This sounds odd to me because the National Guard in D.C. is under the President's command.

How does this work in practice? Could a state governor order their National Guard troops into another district/state, and because those orders have been given they stay in effect, or when the NG unit crosses the administrative border, are they subject to the local civilian commander in that region?

  • 10
    I note this could be provocatively asked as "Did Governor Northam invade DC yesterday?"
    – gktscrk
    Jan 7, 2021 at 12:49
  • 7
    The last time that happened it didn't go so well.
    – CGCampbell
    Jan 7, 2021 at 15:24
  • 3
    'this could be provocatively asked as "Did Governor Northam invade DC yesterday?"' - The answer to that would be no; the only 'invasion' that happened was when rioting Trumpists invaded the Capitol building to interfere with the Electoral College. Northam (quite appropriately) dispatched assistance to quell the invasion/insurrection attempt upon request, after it became clear that Capitol police were unable to do so themselves.
    – aroth
    Jan 8, 2021 at 4:09

2 Answers 2


The Governor of Virginia sent VA National Guard members to assist in handling the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the request of the Mayor of the District of Columbia. The DC Mayor was authorized to make this request and the VA Governor was authorized to honor this request thanks to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. The state of Maryland also provided support, again under the auspices of the EMCA, and again at the request of the DC Mayor, but this was delayed because Maryland's governor was under the impression that approval from the US Department of Defense was needed.

  • 9
    @gktscrk no, because New York City is not party to the compact. The parties are "all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, [and] Puerto Rico." The Governor of New York state could, though. Jan 7, 2021 at 17:10
  • 5
    Also, perhaps for clarity, you could spell out whether the chain of command for such 'detached' units changes; for example, when the National Guard is no longer needed, does the Mayor of DC call the Governor of VA to tell his troops to leave, or can they address the guardsmen directly?
    – gktscrk
    Jan 7, 2021 at 17:30
  • 6
    But X cannot use a compact with Y to authorize Y to do something that X did not already have the power to do. Given the DC government is not in the chain of command of the DC National Guard, I wonder if the DC government even has jurisdiction over the use of militia units in DC, or if that power belongs solely to the federal government.
    – user102008
    Jan 7, 2021 at 20:26
  • 2
    @AndrewRay Do they really have to agree in advance? Can they not just ask, and say yes? Jan 7, 2021 at 22:37
  • 3
    I just heard on TV the governor of MD explain that he had been asked by senior congresspeople (hunkered down in a secure location) to send MD national guard and thought he couldn't without the Sec. of Defense's OK . Couldn't get that person on the phone but got a call 1 1/2 hours later from the Sec of the Army who told him to go. Then he sent the National Guard and others from MD to the capital. He said they were the first there to help the Capital Police. Jan 8, 2021 at 3:33

According to Newsweek, the accepted answers is partially incorrect that the guard (from other states) could have been deployed to the Capitol merely as a result of the EMAC:

Bowser turned to surrounding state governments for support. While the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) allows Bowser to request aid from state national guards within D.C. city limits, out-of-state troops need federal approval to assist on federal property.

Which explains why authorization from the Pentagon was sought, as the Capitol is federal property. Also, the DC Mayor apparently had no authority to request help on the Capitol proper; that request had to come from the chief of Capitol police as a details of a conference revealed.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .