Ridge Promises 'Unprecedented' Security at Inauguration
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2005 An "unprecedented" level of security will help ensure that the 55th U.S. inauguration ceremony and activities later this month proceed without disruption, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said here today.
"Multiple layers of security," including some 6,000 law enforcement personnel from dozens of federal and state agencies, will be on site to ensure the Jan. 20 events come off without a hitch, Ridge told reporters.
Some of this added security will be visible to those attending the inaugural celebration and local residents, and some won't, Ridge said.
Among the behind-the-scenes security support will be Joint Forces Headquarters National Capital Region. This element, part of U.S. Northern Command, brings together U.S. military capabilities for the defense of the nation's capital, explained Army Col. Nelson McCouch, public affairs officer for the Military District of Washington.
The headquarters, under the command of Army Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman, draws together a wide range of assets to safeguard the region, McCouch said. These assets range from a Marine Corps chemical biological incident-response force to an Army engineer company trained to conduct rescue operations, he said.
In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard, which works with the headquarters, will conduct water and helicopter patrols over the two tributaries that flow through the area, the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, during the inaugural activities, McCouch said.
In the event of an emergency, McCouch said, the headquarters would mobilize whatever assets the circumstances demanded, from medical personnel capable of setting up field hospitals to troops trained to respond to a wide range of threats.
Ridge told reporters today that security plans for the event have been in the works for a full year and have been tested during multiagency exercises and through other security operations in the area.
"This is not an on-the-job training exercise," Ridge said, noting that the security personnel to be involved in the inauguration effort "do it regularly and they do it well."
Ridge said the local, state and federal government "is as prepared as possible to thwart any attempts of disruption of this celebration of democracy, to thwart terrorists and to protect the hallmark of our democratic and constitutional traditions."