Top General: Large Military Presence at Inauguration

Posted December 17, 2008 at 11:12am

More than 10,000 active-duty military and National Guard personnel are expected to help with security or participate in next month’s presidential inauguration, a top military officer said Wednesday morning.

Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart, head of the Defense Department’s Northern Command, which oversees military support for homeland security, told the Defense Writers Group that about 7,500 active-duty military personnel and 4,000 National Guardsmen were due in town for the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Renuart said there have been no specific threats to the inauguration, but he called it “prudent” to have military forces available to deter or respond to a potential threat. Officials are anticipating more than 1 million people will descend on the city for the event.

Renuart would not provide a more specific breakdown, but he said some of those troops would be supporting federal law enforcement efforts and others would have a ceremonial role, such as walking in the parade or providing honor cordons. He stressed that the Secret Service has the lead role in providing inaugural security but said the military would be an “active participant.”

For example, the four-star general said the military will provide enhanced air-defense patrols over Washington during the festivities and will have chemical response teams available in the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack. He said the military has provided similar support for the national political conventions and Super Bowls.

Additionally, the Metropolitan Police Department is expected to have 8,000 personnel on duty, half of which will come from law enforcement agencies across the country. That’s 1,000 more officers than at President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2005.

Other federal agencies, including the Secret Service and National Park Service, have yet to say how many personnel they will have on hand. All 1,600 Capitol Police officers also are expected to help out.