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January 18, 2013

Inauguration Security -- A Year In The Planning

by Jeff Seldin

More than 500,000 people are expected to converge on the area between the Capitol and the White House for Monday's presidential inauguration.  That's about one third of the people who attended President Barack Obama’s first inauguration four years ago.  Still, a large event like this poses security challenges.

Presidential inaugurations are elaborate.  There's the swearing-in with domestic and foreign dignitaries present.  The moving of the president to and from the White House, and the massive crowds that gather along the way.  All present complex challenges for security.

“The event is going to span a very large area.  We are talking about the inaugural parade, the swearing-in ceremony throughout DC. There are issues of making sure these perimeters are secure without stopping everyday business,” said Jessica Zuckerman, a homeland security expert with the Heritage Foundation.

Officials have been working on a security plan for the inauguration for more than a year.  The U.S. Secret Service, which guards the president daily, is in charge and will be joined by federal and local law enforcement from more than 80 jurisdictions around the country.  

They will have eyes and ears on the tops of buildings, in the sky and in the crowds.   

“Mainly watching for anything out of the unusual. It is the same principle of, if you see something say something.  They are going to be looking for anything that indicates something is not quite right and there might be a potential threat,” Zuckerman said.

Six thousand National Guard troops have been deputized by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department.  They will assist with crowd and traffic control. Barriers have been erected around federal buildings and along the parade route to control crowd flow and access to secure areas.

Security will be coordinated from a command center at an undisclosed location outside the city.  Officials say they have planned for every contingency from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, to a single individual looking to disrupt the proceedings.