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Secret Service Does Its Share

Everyone’s heard complaints about industry and government not sharing information with each other. So it’s refreshing when word arises of effective communication between the public and private sectors. At January’s inauguration of President Bush for his second term, the Secret Service’s actions were a model of cooperation, according to private security companies with which they worked.

In the past, complaints had been heard that the Secret Service was insular and reluctant to work with private security. That was not the case in 2005, says Dwayne Gulsby, vice president of sales for Securitas, which provided security for the inaugural parade, several inaugural balls, and other events.

The Secret Service was “very willing to work with us as part of the team,” Gulsby says. “They saw us having value to them.”

This represents a post-9-11 mind-set, in which the Secret Service is spread thin and is grateful to have extra sets of trained eyes and ears, he adds.

There were also a number of lessons from 2001 that helped in 2005 and lessons from 2005 that will help in future inaugurations. For example, at the last inauguration, eight months before September 11, security focused on protesters, Gulsby notes. This time, they were a secondary consideration, while counterterrorism was a major focus.

In addition, Securitas staff were warned this year that one detail on the parade route in 2001, had its radio frequency compromised and infiltrated by protesters, Gulsby says. The obvious concern was that far more malevolent forces could do the same in 2005.

To reduce that risk, Securitas used various channels for different events, including a secure channel. It also made sure that the repeaters it deployed didn’t interfere with Secret Service communications.

While no real threat materialized, the security forces were tested on the day before President Bush took the oath of office, when a man parked a van next to the Treasury building and threatened to blow himself up, notes Matt Walton, founder and vice chairman of E-Team, which provided crisis-management software for the inauguration. “That was out of left field,” he says.

Law enforcement had been focused on protecting the President. They “had to redirect their focus, ascertain it wasn’t a worst-case thing, and resolve the episode without excessive force,” Walton says.

The incident reminded personnel that they couldn’t lock themselves into a single mind-set. The nonviolent resolution of the crisis ultimately “speaks to the professionalism of the personnel involved,” Walton says.