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Fact Sheet: National Special Security Events

Release Date: December 28, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security announced that the state funeral for former President Gerald Ford will be designated a National Special Security Event.

When an event is designated a National Special Security Event, the U.S. Secret Service assumes its mandated role as the lead federal agency for the design and implementation of the operational security plan and Federal resources are deployed to maintain the level of security needed for the event and the area. The goal of such an operation is to prevent terrorist attacks and criminal acts.

Once an event is designated a National Special Security Event, the Secret Service relies on existing partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement and public safety officials with the goal of coordinating participating agencies to provide a safe and secure environment for the event and those in attendance.

Resources used as part of past NSSE operational security plans that could be deployed for NSSE designated events include physical infrastructure, security fencing and barricades, special access accreditation badges, K-9 Teams and other security technologies.

The Secret Service is responsible for planning, directing and executing federal security operations at designated NSSEs. The Secret Service also provides federal, state and local law enforcement partners, who give substantial, critical support to the mission, with the necessary guidance and training regarding their role in the overall operational security plans.

The Secret Service regularly sponsors training seminars for command-level law enforcement and public safety officials from jurisdictions all over the country to provide fundamental principles for managing security aspects of major events and strategies for reducing vulnerabilities related to terrorism and other criminal acts. Seminars discuss key strategies and lessons learned from past events.

To be fully prepared to meet its mission for consequence management within the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA* will pre-position some combination of the following response and recovery assets: the Domestic Emergency Support Team (DEST), Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams, national Emergency Response Teams (ERT-N), the Nuclear Incident Response Team (NIRT), the Strategic National Stockpile and Mobile Emergency Response System (MERS). The specific package is tailored for each individual event based on coordination with other federal agencies, state and local jurisdictions, available local resources, mutual aid agreements and other event-specific requirements.

A number of factors are taken into consideration when designating an event as a National Special Security Event including a few outlined below:

  1. Anticipated attendance by dignitaries - Events which are attended by officials of the United States Government and/or foreign dignitaries also may create an independent federal interest in ensuring that the event transpires without incident and that sufficient resources are brought to bear in the event of an incident.
  2. Size of the event - A large number of attendees and participants generally increases the security requirements. In addition, larger events are more likely to draw the attention of terrorists or other criminals, particularly those interested in employing weapons of mass destruction.
  3. Significance of the event - Some events have historical, political and/or symbolic significance that may heighten concern about possible terrorist acts or other criminal activity.

Since 1998, the Secret Service has led federal security operations at 23 National Special Security Events, including the 2005 Presidential Inauguration, the 2004 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, President Ronald Reagan’s State Funeral in 2004 and the last three State of the Union Addresses.

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*Replaced the phrase "Emergency Preparedness & Response" with "FEMA."

This page was last reviewed/modified on December 29, 2006.