The commanding general of the Washington, D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, who has held the post since the G.W. Bush administration, will retire on 20 January 2017, the day of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, it has been announced.
The National Guard confirmed Schwartz's resignation in a statement released one week before Inauguration Day:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 13, 2017) - Joint Forces Headquarters, District of Columbia National Guard confirms the District of Columbia National Guard Commanding General Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz will retire from the National Guard after more than 40 years of distinguished service in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army National Guard, effective Jan. 20, 2017 at 12 p.m.
DCNG Land Component Commander Brig. Gen. William J. Walker, who is also currently dual-hatted as commander of Joint Task Force-District of Columbia, will assume command of the DCNG as the interim commanding general effective 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2017.
DCNG operations will remain normal in support of the inauguration. We will continue to be always ready, always there.
In statements to the Washington Post, Schwartz said he learned he was being replaced on Inauguration Day, without explanation, in an e-mail from the Pentagon, and questioned the timing of the move:
Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz’s departure will come in the middle of the presidential ceremony — classified as a national special security event — and while thousands of his troops are deployed to help protect the nation’s capital during an inauguration he has spent months helping to plan.
“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz said in an interview Friday morning, confirming a memo announcing his ouster that was obtained by The Washington Post. During the inauguration, Schwartz will command not only members of the D.C. Guard but also 5,000 unarmed troops dispatched from across the country to help. He also will oversee military air support protecting Washington during the inauguration.
“My troops will be on the street,” said Schwartz, who turned 65 in October. “I’ll see them off, but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.” He said he would “never plan to leave a mission in the middle of a battle.”
Unlike state National Guard commanders, the District of Columbia commanding general is a presidential appointee, so it is the President-elect's prerogative to replace him. And while Schwartz wasn't the only one to question the timing — “It doesn’t make sense to can the general in the middle of an active deployment,” Democratic D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told The Washington Post — all presidential appointments, including D.C. National Guard commander, are either renewed or expire as of noon on the day the new president is inaugurated.
According to a report from WUSA9 News, spokesmen for the Defense Department and National Guard said Schwartz was offered additional time to transition out of the post, but turned it down:
“Major General Schwartz is a non-career status political appointee. As such he has tendered his resignation that will be effective January 20th,” Major Jamie Davis, a Department of Defense spokesman told WUSA9. “This is standard procedure for political appointees.”
Like an ambassador would, Schwartz followed protocol and offered his resignation to the incoming administration. But according to a senior transition official, the Trump team had not yet accepted it — and had asked Schwartz to stay on a few days past inauguration day to help ensure the event went smoothly.
Sources say that with Schwartz' successor already named, the General declined to extend his command those extra days, instead stepping down at 12:01 p.m. exactly on January 20th.
“He wants to ensure that there is a secure transition between two commanding generals,” DC National Guard Spokesman Major Byron B. Coward told WUSA9. “There’s not going to be any disconnect or anything of that nature.”
Schwartz began his military career as a D.C. National Guard enlistee in 1976, and was appointed to the post of commanding general by President George W. Bush in 2008.