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Coast Guard will enforce a security zone on Potomac and Anacostia Rivers for upcoming presidential inauguration

Coast Guard exercise
on Potomac River

The Coast Guard does not yet know whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be addressing the throngs who will show up at the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2013, but it does know that in either case it plans to establish a temporary security zone on the nearby Potomac and Anacostia Rivers to prevent what it calls the “catastrophic impact” that could result from a terrorist attack.

In fact, the Coast Guard will establish that security zone for a total of nine days -- beginning at 8:00 am on Jan. 15 and running through 10:00 pm on Jan. 24 -- to safeguard the crowds who will participate at the inaugural ceremonies, balls, parades and receptions in the District of Columbia during that period.

The security zone will “prevent vessels or persons from bypassing the security established on shore for the events and engaging in waterborne terrorist actions during the highly-publicized events,” said the Coast Guard in a Federal Register announcement published on Oct. 24.

During the nine-day period, vessels will be prohibited from entering the security zone, which includes all waters of the Potomac River, from shoreline to shoreline, between the Francis Scott Key Bridge on the north to a point further south (at 38 degrees, 51’00’’ N); and the Anacostia River, from shoreline to shoreline, from the 11th Street Bridge on the north to the confluence with the Potomac River on the south.

The Coast Guard explains that, “Vessels already at berth, mooring, or anchor in the security zone at the time the security zone is implemented do not have to depart the zone,” but the notice does not explain how the Coast Guard would prevent a bomb from being stowed on such a vessel before Jan. 15 and then detonated remotely during the nine-day security period.

The Coast Guard notice points out that the two most-recent inaugural ceremonies were designated as “National Special Security Events” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Coast Guard said it was not planning to hold a public meeting on its plans to establish such a maritime security zone, but it invites comments from members of the public to be submitted by Nov. 23, 2012 at www.regulations.gov, by citing docket number USCG-2012-0938.

Further information is available from Ronald Houck, of the Coast Guard’s Baltimore sector, at 410-576-2674 or Ronald.L.Houck@uscg.mil.