By Jesse Coleman
Salt Lake City will see more troops on its streets during the Olympics thanks to a White House security package approved last week.
In a letter addressed to Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, the White House approved $24.5 million for Olympic security Thursday, Oct. 18.
A substantial chunk of the security package, $4.5 million, goes to the Department of Justice for equipment and supplies, said Larry Shepherd of Senator Bob Bennett”s office. This includes such equipment as metal detectors and other security equipment.
The additional $20 million goes to the Department of Defense and will augment the number of military personnel involved in the games.
Most of these personnel would be soldiers in uniform, said Lt. Col Lisa Bogdanski. Bogdanski, public affairs representative for the Joint Task Force for the Olympics Office, said the five major areas for military support are vehicles, communications, bomb detections and sweeps, temporary facilities and physical security.
However Bogdanski said only National Guard soldiers will be carrying weapons.
“We provide support and equipment, but if there are any troops, they will be the National Guard,” Bogdanski said.
The number of National Guard troops is expected to increase from the Governor”s original request of 2,000 to approximately 3,300, said Lt. Col Craig Morgan, public affairs officer for the Utah National Guard. Morgan said the primary mission for the National Guard is to augment already existing security.
“The only time the National Guard is used is when local resources are taxed beyond their ability to respond. The Guard is to assist already in-place law enforcement,” Morgan said.
Lt. Col Morgan said the National Guard is ready and willing to respond at any given moment to threats facing the nation.
“The National Guard are prepared and willing to serve the governor and president wherever and whenever they are called,” he said.
In a press release given last week, Senator Bennett praised the additional increase in funds and said the Games “are sure to be a remarkable demonstration of American talent, confidence and strength.”
Utah Governor Mike Leavitt also said in a news release that he was confident in the new security package and felt Utah is prepared for every possible scenario.
“This will be a secure place,” he said. “Terrorists rely upon surprise, rely on an element of uncertainty, and none of that exists here,” Leavitt said.
Federal government money has been pouring into Salt Lake City ever since the Sept. 11 attacks in an attempt to ease tensions and make the upcoming Olympic Games more secure.
The federal government has added $40 million to the Olympic security budget as part of the $40 billion anti-terrorism package approved by Congress Sept. 18. The security package will prevent the need for much additional legislation, Bennett said.
The most recent package specifically increased the role of the Department of Defense for Games time security, Shepherd said.
“The Department of Defense already had a role in security. This money is for an enhanced role,” Shepherd said.
In spite of increases in security spending, and reassurances from politicians, some are still worried about safety at the Olympics. Prince Albert of Monaco, a member of the International Olympic Committee, said the Games might be cancelled if another event like those of Sept. 11 took place, the AP reported Monday, Oct. 22.