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Inaugural Events to Salute Armed Forces

Balls to Be Held at Fewer Sites Under Tightest Security Ever, Officials Say

By Timothy Dwyer and Maureen Fan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 16, 2004; Page B09

The Sept. 11 attacks and the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan weighed heavily on planning for President Bush's second inauguration, from the theme announced by organizers yesterday to the choice of venues for inaugural balls.

The Jan. 20 inauguration will be the first since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and comes while U.S. troops are fighting on two fronts. Law enforcement officials said security will be the tightest of any presidential inauguration.

Workers build an observation stand across from the White House. The inauguration's theme is "Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service." (Ray K. Saunders -- The Washington Post)

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Six of the nine inaugural balls will be at the Washington Convention Center, and D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that will ease security demands. "The fewer the sites, the better," he said. "Six in one place make it a lot easier."

Ramsey said having fewer sites was a consideration in planning the balls and would simplify how his department approaches traffic control. But he said he would still need a large contingent of officers to provide protection for the center because it is so large.

The theme of the inauguration, "Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service," said Jeanne Phillips, chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, "is an extension of the character and courage Americans have shown since September 11, 2001." She said it is intended as "an important display of gratitude to the armed forces serving abroad. We recognize . . . we are a nation at war."

Bush has described himself as a wartime president and stressed that theme during the presidential campaign. The second inauguration reflects that soldiers are being wounded or killed every day on foreign soil, organizers said.

In two previous instances, presidents curtailed some inaugural events in times of war. Franklin D. Roosevelt canceled three of his inaugural balls because of the Depression and World War II. During World War I, Woodrow Wilson canceled the inaugural ball.

The amount of money being spent on Bush's second inauguration doesn't seem to suggest similar reserve, said Lorenzo Morris, a political science professor at Howard University who has researched electoral behavior and inaugurations.

"We're not in a world war, so a certain degree of celebration is understandable," Morris said. Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural parade in 1861 included floats and 34 women representing each of the 34 states. "Lincoln was concerned about maintaining some degree of celebration as a symbol of national unity."

The inauguration with the most military muscle was Dwight D. Eisenhower's in 1953, when he included about 20,000 members of the military, more than anyone else before or since, Morris said.

Two of next month's inaugural events will honor the military. The first, "Saluting Those Who Serve," is scheduled for Jan. 18 at MCI Center and will be "part concert, part multimedia presentation," said Tracey Schmitt, spokeswoman for the committee. She said those attending will not be exclusively from the military.

But on Jan. 20, the Commander-in-Chief Ball will be held at the National Building Museum. About 2,000 soldiers who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan or are about to be deployed there will be invited and may attend free, organizers said.

Committee officials said they are working with the Department of Defense to identify soldiers who will receive invitations to the ball. "We are just beginning the dialogue with them [the Presidential Inaugural Committee] to determine how we can provide the support they require," said Navy Capt. Curtis Reilly, a spokesman for the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

Phillips, a Texas businesswoman, served as chairman of the inaugural committee in 2001. She said in a phone interview yesterday that she learned one big lesson the first time around. "I learned it is better to do it in 60 days than 17 days," she said, referring to the short planning period four years ago caused by the delay in the presidential election results.

Greg Jenkins, the inaugural committee executive director who runs the group's day-to-day operations, comes to the job uniquely qualified as an event planner. For the past two years, he was in charge of advance planning for the president.

"Our theme and itinerary reflect on the historic times we live in," Jenkins said in a conference call with reporters, "and will make this inaugural celebration historic and symbolic."

Jenkins said 400 to 500 people will be working for the inaugural committee. Last week, published reports put the cost of the inauguration at about $50 million. Yesterday, Jenkins said the official estimate of the cost is $30 to $40 million, which does not include security.

Three events will be held Jan. 18. In addition to the salute to the military at the MCI Center, there will be a chairman's reception at Mellon Auditorium and a youth concert at the D.C. Armory. Details, including times and names of entertainers, have not been released by the committee.

On Jan. 19, "A Celebration of Freedom" is scheduled for the Ellipse and will include fireworks and three candlelight dinners with the president and Vice President Cheney. Last week, the committee sent invitations to prospective donors asking for contributions of $100,000 and $250,000 in return for access to events such as the candlelight dinners and most of the balls

At 11:53 a.m. Jan. 20, Bush will recite the oath of office and then begin his inaugural address at noon, according to inaugural planners. The three-hour parade is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company