Lawmakers are stunned.
A rising number of House members are demanding a congressional investigation into the interagency communication breakdown that resulted in the emergency evacuation of the United States Capitol complex on Wednesday evening.
The lawmakers are taken aback that an Army paratrooper stunt at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium — a pre-planned event that allowed a small, twin-engine plane to enter highly restricted airspace near Capitol Hill — could cause such havoc, even as Washington law enforcement agencies are under intense pressure to improve security protocols in the aftermath of last year’s deadly attack on the Capitol — could cause such havoc.
According to the police department and politicians, while the FAA was aware that the Army aircraft would be circling Nationals Park, about a mile south of the Capitol, the agency did not notify the U.S. Capitol Police. Due to the obvious communication breakdown, the USCP issued an unexpected evacuation order, indicating that the unidentified aircraft was on its way. and “poses a probable threat to the Capitol Complex.”
The order was swiftly rescinded, and the FAA says it is looking into the incident. However, a number of politicians believe a congressional investigation is also warranted.
On Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the phone, “I think, certainly, we’ve got to get to the bottom of what happened,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday by phone.
“It’s amazing … that not everybody was fully notified,” he added. “It’s hard to imagine.”
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger who fought in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, was not there during the evacuation on Wednesday. However, he stated that it had an impact on his staff and was especially traumatic for those who had witnessed the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
He said, “It’s triggering for so many folks that were here on that day,” “So we have to look into it, we have to figure out what went wrong, and there has to be some accountability, because clearly the ball was dropped.”
The Army’s paratrooper team, known as the Golden Knights, had taken out Wednesday evening from Joint Base Andrews, a joint base just outside Washington’s Beltway in Maryland, and was on its way to Nationals Park for the military appreciation night event. The Capitol Police said that while they routinely receive notice of “hundreds of authorized flights in the restricted airspace” each week, the plane ferrying the Golden Knights was not among them.
The department said Thursday, “The decision to evacuate the campus is not one we take lightly,” “It is extremely unusual not to be made aware of a flight in advance.”
The Capitol Police issued an evacuation order just after 6:30 p.m., but it was revoked less than 20 minutes later after it was established that there was no threat.
The fear was short, but it drove a large number of Capitol Hill employees to flee the building. It infuriated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who issued a statement quickly criticizing the conduct as “outrageous and inexcusable.”
She said, “The unnecessary panic caused by this apparent negligence was particularly harmful for members, staff and institutional workers still grappling with the trauma of the attack on their workplace on Jan. 6.”
According to a statement made by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command on Thursday, the Golden Knights followed all of the required protocols for flying into restricted airspace near the Capitol.
Spokesperson Kelli LeGaspi. “We have confirmed that the parachute team filed all appropriate and required Federal Aviation Administration documentation and received FAA approval prior to operating within the National Capital Region’s airspace.”
The FAA appeared to recognize in its own statement that the problem originated in its headquarters.
“We know our actions affect others, especially in our nation’s capital region, and we must communicate early and often with our law enforcement partners,” the agency said, vowing “a thorough and expeditious review” of Wednesday’s events.
It is unclear whether a congressional investigation will follow the agency’s investigation. According to a Pelosi staffer, the FAA’s internal review is the “first step.” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash), chairman of the Transportation Committee’s aviation subpanel, stated that while he has asked committee staff to seek information from the FAA, he has yet to hear directly from the agency.
“I expect to see the results of the agency’s investigation soon,” Larsen said in an email.
While such instances are extremely rare, it is not the first time the Capitol has been evacuated due to a bogus warning of an aircraft assault. In 2004, authorities at the Pentagon were on the verge of dispatching fighter aircraft to shoot down an unidentified airliner flying into restricted airspace in Washington. The governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher (R), was flying aboard the twin-engine plane to Ronald Reagan’s burial.
Hoyer, who was in the Capitol Rotunda at the time of the evacuation order, said it “caused a real panic.”
“Ultimately, it was resolved before everybody exited the Capitol. But it was an incident that caused many disruptions,” he said. “You would think that the folks who were running this effort would know that everybody needs a heads-up if you have a small airplane flying anywhere close to the Capitol dome.”
In another bizarre occurrence in 2015, a Florida postman protesting campaign financing regulations flew a gyrocopter across the National Mall and landed on Capitol grounds. He was caught and sentenced to four months in prison without incident.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who said she arrived in Washington late Wednesday night, thanked the Capitol Police personnel who handled the evacuation.
“The officers did their job, they were worn out by the time I got there,” she said.
She was quick to point out that the incident proved that communication between the nation’s security services had to be improved.
“We’d better establish a rigorous chain of accountability,” Kaptur said. “I think that’s what it taught us.”