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Logistics Strategies for Planning the Presidential Inauguration

Supporting the inauguration of the President provided a unique exercise in logistics planning and execution for personnel drawn from all the services.

In August 2008, we were temporarily assigned to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee (AFIC) in support of the 56th Presidential inauguration on 20 January 2009. The AFIC is a joint service organization charged with coordinating all military ceremonial support during the inaugural period, which this year lasted from 14 to 24 January. As we approached this unusual assignment, we were a little cautious, but we were excited nonetheless. However, we did not know what we were getting ourselves into.

The U.S. military has participated in inauguration ceremonies since George Washington was sworn into office as the first President on 30 April 1789. Soldiers of the Army and local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted Washington to the first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City. Two hundred and twenty years later, the military’s participation continues to honor the newly elected commander-in-chief, thereby recognizing civilian control of the Armed Forces and celebrating democracy.

Since the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, this military participation has been formalized under a committee—the AFIC. Military ceremonial participation traditionally includes musical units, marching bands, color guards, firing details, salute batteries, and honor cordons. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen assigned to the committee also provide valuable assistance to two other organizations involved in organizing
and conducting the inauguration: the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inauguration Ceremonies (JCCIC). Following the presidential election, the President-elect appoints the PIC to plan and execute the official inaugural celebratory events. Thus, the PIC-planned events, which AFIC supports with military ceremonial personnel, are not defined until late November. The JCCIC plans and executes events on Capitol Hill, including the actual inaugural oath ceremony on the west front of the Capitol.

The Secretary of Defense authorized nearly 750 service members to be assigned on the day of the inauguration to coordinate Department of Defense (DOD) support in and around the District of Columbia. More than 5,712 service members participated in inauguration arrangements, both in view of the public and behind the scenes, in the days leading up to 20 January.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Niemi, USCG)

Forming AFIC

Planning for this year’s AFIC began in January 2007 and can be grouped into six major phases: I (assessment), II (pre-planning), III (planning, integration, and team building), IV (PIC established), V (execution), and VI (post-Presidential inaugural closeout).

Long before the 2006 midterm elections, phases I and II were well underway and involved assembling a planning committee to help shape the AFIC team. The team was lightly manned and largely supported by members of the Army Military District of Washington, headquartered at Fort Lesley J. McNair in southwest Washington. The most important task was to review the 2005 AFIC’s Joint Manning Document to identify all positions required for activities supporting the 2009 inauguration.

The AFIC was originally staged at Fort McNair and then relocated to the downtown area, where it would be closer to all of the action. Accomplishing the move downtown required locating and securing building space, obtaining building agreements and land-use permits, acquiring office furniture, requesting parking spaces, and negotiating access points.

Planning, Integration, and Team Building

Fast forward to phase III, which was when we arrived. Phase III required detailed planning at the AFIC level, equivalent to operational-level planning. Key tasks included establishing the Ceremonies Directorate and other key AFIC staff positions, reviewing and editing plans, submitting land-use permits, coordinating with the JCCIC, and publishing DOD inauguration guidelines.

In phase III, the logistics team coordinated and built the concept of support for the Ceremonies Directorate. A 300-person joint service team spread out among five inaugural support divisions within the Ceremonies Directorate (which was part of AFIC’s primary staff): Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, Inaugural Parade, Street Cordon, Military Assistant Escorts, and Other Inaugural Events (or Special Events). Each of those divisions was chaired by an O–5 officer. Leading up to the inauguration, the Ceremonies Directorate logistics coordinator and the Logistics Directorate were responsible for planning, analyzing, and executing multifunctional logistics, including transportation, food service, and acquisition, receipt, issue, and recovery of Government and commercial equipment and supplies.

The planning of any Presidential inauguration is a difficult task. As logisticians, the primary justification used to prioritize and allocate limited resources is based on what is required to accomplish the mission objectives. Since AFIC provides ceremonial support for the PIC and the PIC would not be organized until after the election, it was not possible to establish firm requirements for planning early in the process. The starting point for planning, therefore, was to use the previous inauguration as a baseline of potential requirements. The AFIC staff researched the 2005 inauguration after-action reports, operation plan, and continuity books to garner lessons learned, previous planning factors and considerations, and concepts of support to begin developing the 2009 support plan. This work all began before Senator Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008.

The 56th Presidential inauguration had the largest attendance of any inauguration in U.S. history. Unprecedented crowds, estimated to include as many as 1.8-million people, forced significant changes in planning and execution. The parade marchers’ assembly area was moved from the Mall to the Ellipse, requiring significant planning changes and interagency coordination. Unprecedented security concerns significantly increased credentialing requirements—including, for the first time, a requirement to credential all 13,000 parade participants. AFIC successfully submitted a total of 19,105 U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police credentials, while supporting and aiding the PIC efforts, with a 99.99-percent success rate. The post-September 11th security environment, the traffic congestion typical of Washington, D.C., and the potential for cold, snowy winter weather all brought to mind Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 more than once. The AFIC Logistics Directorate was charged with providing the 700 AFIC staff and 1,600 task-assigned street cordon personnel with medical, transportation, food service, supply, and engineering support using a fleet of 157 vehicles and 155 personnel, most of whom were vehicle operators.

Another unique challenge to AFIC resulted from its status as a temporary organization formed during an election year. As a result, AFIC had no organic assets or capabilities, so everything it needed was procured, borrowed, coordinated, or contracted for in an environment where all expenditures were intensely scrutinized.

In order to narrow our focus and build a realistic plan, we asked ourselves such questions as “What will it look like when we get there?” “What will success be like, feel like?” and “How will others know?” Taking the time to answer each of those questions enabled us to develop key goals everyone would understand and could see fulfilled. They helped us quickly prioritize our work and have an immediate impact on the planning effort. Each question addressed factors of time, information, and process management: defining requirements; devising concepts; planning and coordinating support; executing the plan; and assessing its effectiveness.

Defining Requirements

Defining requirements was the most crucial step in securing resources to meet objectives for mission accomplishment. An accurate definition of operational requirements ensured that sufficient assets were resourced and allocated or were identified as lacking. For inaugural logistics planning, requirements were defined by numbers of personnel requiring meal support, types of meals provided, transportation vehicle and movement requests, and types and quantities of assets (such as signs, posts, furniture, cones, sandbags, cots, sleeping bags, and beverage containers) needed to support the operational events envisioned by the Ceremonies Directorate. Central to our analysis, we needed to anticipate and plan for changes in requirements and tackle emerging needs to avoid unintended consequences. Establishing a process to capture, track, and communicate changes, coupled with the ability to account for additions or deletions, was important to ensuring the synchronization of all military, civilian, and interagency organizations.

For logisticians, it was frustrating to delay planning support while the Ceremonies Directorate defined operational needs. We all relied on understanding and communicating the expectations of a successful week of inauguration activities. Through careful coaching and prodding, we were able to help ceremonial planners consider their logistics needs and capabilities.

Devising Concepts

When requirements were identified, additional details such as timing, location, restraints, and constraints were evaluated to develop possible courses of action to accomplish mission objectives.

Some factors we considered in devising logistics support concepts were the capabilities present in the National Capital Region. The region is home to more than 10 military installations, so we knew this was where the bulk of the capabilities would come from. Evaluating the abilities of each installation to provide food service, transportation support, staging infrastructure, and security was important to ensuring that our logistics concepts were sound. For example, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., had closed its dining facility since the last inauguration in 2005. That affected our concept of support from Bolling. To complicate this issue, AFIC was not the only organization approaching the installations for support; the installations were receiving requests from contingency forces, potential parade participants, and others with requirements not related to the inauguration. We had to compete for installations’ capabilities and clearly define the priority of our mission in relation to others.

Another aspect we had to evaluate in developing our logistics concepts to support the ceremonial events was the support we would leverage from other Government agencies, such as the General Service Administration (GSA). By meshing together civilian Government and military installation capabilities, we were able to devise a support concept for transportation using a fleet of GSA vehicles, staging areas on military bases where hot meals would be served and logistics packages would be issued, contracted temporary facilities for command and control, and finally, Government-owned facilities to provide messing and shelter to street-cordon personnel.

This concept evolved as the mission evolved. Although many details seemed to be fluid, we understood that only one factor remained constant across all agencies—time. All support revolved around the timing of events and therefore was backward-planned in relation to those events. A synchronization matrix of required agencies and support had to be planned and plotted so it could eventually be fed into a master events list for executing ceremonial support.

Planning and Coordinating Support

Narrowly defining our requirements and coordinating to ensure that we delivered the right capability at the right time and in the right location was a difficult process because there were many unknowns. Much of the initial planning was compartmentalized with little awareness of other events or support requirements. Through multiple map exercises, where different agencies responsible for certain aspects of the inauguration ceremonial support briefed their plans, the blinders came off and coordination increased.

It is often said in the Air Force, “Flexibility is the key to airpower,” and the same is true with logistics. As requirements and plans change, it is critical to have a good mechanism in place to manage changes and ensure that they are communicated quickly and to all parties. Change management is crucial to logistics planning, so we used a general crosstalk format to prioritize and communicate the latest information.
(Photo by TSgt Alan Port, USAF)

Executing the Plan

On Inauguration Day 2009, 160 AFIC logisticians partnered with personnel at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland; Fort Myer, Virginia; Anacostia Naval Station, D.C.; and the Pentagon to execute months of planning and preparation. This was accomplished by synergizing multiple levels of interagency, civil, and military support to stand up key staging hubs. We developed timelines, directed movements, and provided the oversight to spot-screen, feed, and move 3,000 personnel executing the swearing-in ceremony, inaugural parade, street cordons, military assistants’ escort services, and special events.

Between getting to the parade route and actions on the parade route, over 200 transportation movements took place. In addition, 10,000 meals were served or provided, 900 signs were put up and taken down, 13 command post trailers were installed, cleared of equipment, and removed, and many more actions took place behind the scenes. At this point, months of planning came into contact with the fog and friction of Inauguration Day—a cold, blustery winter day. As the day unfolded, the key to success was the strong leadership at the operational and tactical levels in the field, paired with a strong understanding of the overall mission objectives and the desired end state.

So here we are, 220 years after the first inauguration. Our goal in this article is to present a joint perspective on our logistics planning model, supporting the full spectrum of joint military and civilian interagency operations. We faced some significant challenges, but most were out of our control as logisticians, such as traffic congestion, long lines, crowd control, and ticketing and viewing problems. Our logistics team brought together musical units, marching bands, color guards, firing details, salute batteries, and honor cordons, taking center stage supporting the most complex presidential inauguration to date. Through our many logistics exercises, AFIC map exercises, and logistics crosstalk sessions, we rehearsed, analyzed, assessed, and estimated the effectiveness of our support plan. It briefed well and became a reality on Inauguration Day.

Major Christopher L. Paone was the logistics coordinator for the Ceremonies Directorate, Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, Army Military District of Washington, Joint Forces Headquarters, National Capital Region, and Fort Lesley J. McNair. He holds a B.S. degree in business management from Providence College and an M.B.A. degree from the University of Maryland and is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Officers Advance Course and the Theater Logistics Studies Program. He is currently assigned to the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Major William Kossick, USAF, is the commander of the 410th Supply Chain Management Squadron (Support Equipment), 638th Supply Chain Management Group, 448th Supply Chain Management Wing, at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. He was the chief of supply and services for the Logistics Directorate, Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. He holds a B.S. degree in computer science from the United States Air Force Academy and a master’s degree in aviation management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is a graduate of the Aircraft Maintenance and Munitions Officer Course, the Squadron Officer School, and the Air Command and Staff College.