The D.C. National Guard plays a significant and special role in Presidential Inaugurations, a tradition starting in the earliest days of our nation. The National Guard has been present at every Presidential Inauguration, starting with an honor detail which rode with President Washington in recognition of his time as Virginia’s militia commander. The D.C. National Guard has consistently supported presidential inaugurations beginning with the 1860 Inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 triggered several southern states to secede from the Union. There was no secret service at the time, but Lieutenant General Winfield Scott ordered the D.C. Militia to protect the president-elect from harm. The D.C. Militia guarded the parade route, sappers preceded the president-elect, and cavalry rode alongside him, bucking their horses to make it difficult for snipers to get a lock.
The National Guard can be deputized as special police, a role that active duty military cannot. That makes the National Guard an important element in large-scale missions such as inaugurations. This includes the 56th Inauguration of President Barack Obama, which drew the largest audience of any event ever held in Washington. Presidential inaugurations are considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE), where the D.C. National Guard’s prime role is to protect the process. The D.C. National Guard's role has evolved to currently include providing crowd management, security and traffic control, civil support and ceremonial marching elements for the event. The D.C. National Guard's support of the inauguration has also incorporated the assistance of both Army and Air National Guard units from across the states and territories, with the D.C. National Guard as the lead unit. This was evident during the 58th Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, which included the support of 7,800 National Guard personnel from the District of Columbia, 43 states and 3 territories. On January 6, 2021, the D.C. National Guard, and other National Guards units, amounting to almost 26,000 troops, assisted federal and local enforcement in protecting the U.S. Capitol from an insurrection that sought to overturn the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential elections. The Guard was deployed for more than 5 months to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. The National Guard’s protection of the National Capital Region (NCR) was instrumental for the occurrence of the 59th Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden. Additionally, the D.C. Guard provides stand-by support for State of the Union Addresses and other events for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.