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500 Illinois National Guard Troops Headed To D.C. After Homeland Security Warning Of 'Heightened Threat Environment'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker is sending 500 Illinois National Guard members to Washington, D.C., to assist with security efforts in the nation's capital, amid a warning of a "heightened threat environment" across the U.S.

"We are deploying these forces in support of civilian law enforcement based on threat-levels against the U.S. Capitol. These threats were assessed by the FBI and other federal agencies," said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard. "Our soldiers and airmen are committed to the defense of both our nation and our state. We have asked a lot of them in the last year and each time these men and women have answered the call and upheld their oath to defend and support the U.S. Constitution. I could not be more proud of these Soldiers and Airmen."

The contingent heading to D.C. includes approximately 50 members of the Illinois National Guard who were deployed for President Joe Biden's inauguration last week. The troops deployed for that mission have already returned to Illinois, but about 50 of them volunteered to go back for the new assignment.

They will join approximately 7,000 other members of the National Guard from across the U.S. in assisting federal and local law enforcement agencies with security around the nation's capitol. In February, that force be reduced to about 5,000 troops. The Illinois National Guard troops being deployed will arrive in D.C. by next week, and will stay through mid-March.

"The U.S. Department of Defense has asked Illinois to assist federal and local agencies in this continued effort, and Major General Neely and I are ready to ensure that the state of Illinois continues its proud legacy of protecting our democracy," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Ultimately, we must root out the dark forces of racism, white supremacy and disinformation that have created this moment, but until we do that, our extraordinary troops will deploy with honor."

The deployment comes one day after Department of Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin warning the public of a "heightened threat environment" across the United States following last week's presidential inauguration. The advisory, which comes after the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, runs through the end of April.

"Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence," DHS said in issuing the bulletin.

Pritzker's office said the deployment of 500 Illinois National Guard troops to D.C. will not affect the state's vaccination distribution plans, which rely on hundreds of National Guard members to help set up and staff mass vaccination sites across the state.

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