Two photographers take pictures of a model of the White House. Members of… (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington…)
Military officials on Wednesday spilled details of the elaborate plans for President Obama’s second inauguration, rolling out a gym-size map to show how an army of National Guard members and active-duty personnel will contribute to the event’s pomp and manage its backstage nitty-gritty.
Strolling the 40-by-60-foot floor map with what he quipped were “God-like powers,” Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Hinds demonstrated how units will be deployed from staging areas to various command posts along the Mall and the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.
Like a giant Napoleon, Hinds paced among dollhouse-like models of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and an ankle-high Washington Monument to show where military personnel will be assigned on “I-Day.”
The sprawling but detailed map — scaled one inch to 23.5 feet — helped focus the mind on the size of the event. Thousands of troops will muster at the Pentagon, while others will stage as far east as the Anacostia River. Other military operations will be concentrated on the Mall and at the Capitol, where the presidential motorcade will form. Floats will assemble near the old Health, Education and Welfare building on C Street SW. Some bridges will close, beginning at midnight, and traffic lights on the parade route will be temporarily removed.
An estimated 10,000 marchers, including band members, equestrian riders, and at least 1,500 military personnel and military academy members, will join the grand procession from the Capitol to the White House.
“It’s quite a ballet,” Brig. Gen. James P. Scanlan said.
The only thing different about this year’s version of the gargantuan map is that it will be reusable. That was in keeping with the military planners’ theme that this inauguration should be no more expensive — preferably less costly — than the historic 2009 inauguration. It’s also expected to be smaller.
President Obama will be sworn in for a second term in private on Jan. 20, as required by the Constitution. He will receive the oath in public the next day.
Few expect the record-breaking crowd that jammed the Mall for his historic inauguration four years ago, but military officials said that hasn’t stopped them from planning as intensively on a scale that spans the District.
Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington said the overall number of military personnel will be about the same. Linnington, who commands the Joint Task Force Headquarters National Capital Region, said more than 13,500 military personnel — including those on active-duty, reservists, and members of the National Guard and the Coast Guard — will direct traffic, manage crowds, march in the parade and form its honorary cordon. Of those, an estimated 7,500 will be active-duty personnel and reservists.
An additional 6,000 will be supplied by National Guard units in the District and beyond, including at least 17 states and Puerto Rico. Guard members, who will be deputized to assist D.C. police, will help with traffic, crowd control and logistics. (By law, only the National Guard’s military personnel can be deputized for civilian law enforcement, officials said.)
Maj. Chevelle Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Joint Task Force, said the military has deployed approximately the same number of personnel in the past two inaugurations. But many details are still to be worked out, and she said no one has computed the exact cost. During the news conference, Linnington said that many of the active-duty units used for the ceremonial purposes and the parade are based in the region and that the costs to use them are built into their budget. The services must bear the cost of sending units to Washington to participate in the events. The Presidential Inaugural Committee is also raising funds to cover those costs, Linnington said.
Military personnel are also helping to vet the 2,800 applications that have already poured in from marching bands, equestrian teams and others hoping to take part in the parade. More than 300 have been selected so far, Linnington said. The Presidential Inaugural Committee decides which groups make the final cut.
Military officials were more guarded about discussing security precautions, saying only that the Secret Service is the lead agency in charge. But Linnington also told reporters that officials plan to ease access for the crowds expecting to come to Washington.
The Third Street tunnel under the Mall will be closed to the public to prevent a repeat of the “Purple Tunnel of Doom” in 2009, when thousands who had purple-coded tickets were trapped.
Only emergency vehicles will be allowed to use the tunnel, said Maj. General Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard.
But Linnington’s biggest worry is the least controllable: It’s the weather, he said. Linnington estimated that more than 1 million people will attend the inauguration. An estimated 1.8 million attended Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, beating the previous record of 1.2 million who witnessed President Lyndon Johnson’s oath on the Mall in 1965.
The military has played a role in inauguration ceremonies since George Washington received the oath of office on the steps of Federal Hall in New York in 1789.
The D.C. National Guard has taken part in every inauguration since President Abraham Lincoln’s in 1861, said Maj. General Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the Joint Force Headquarters D.C. National Guard.