Heightened security coming to Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National CemeteryArlington National Cemetery officials told a gathering of local tour guides that heightened security measures will begin in coming months to greatly inhibit access to the national cemetery.

Really, a cemetery needs metal detectors and ID checks? The most recent terrorist attack in Paris once more shows it’s a new world and increased security around Washington since 9/11 has become a norm. And ISIS saying Washington will be attacked certainly provides reason for more security.

Arlington National CemeteryAt first, I thought this was excessive. The idea comes from above Arlington officials, who know it will be a hardship to the four million visitors that visit annually. But, it’s not their call. No timetable was given, but six months was once mentioned.

While running through the numbers, an official said four lines will process about 300 people with bags per hour. Wait – that’s 2,400 people per day when an average day – and there is no average day there – would be 11,000-plus. That means 80 percent of the people coming can’t get through.

But there are a couple caveats. First, those driving to graves or attending funerals will enter from the street as usual with different security restrictions. Second, there will be an express line for pedestrians with no bags. Frankly, that’s the smart play but means women must leave their purses behind. Well, NFL stadiums don’t permit purses and women have coped. The White House doesn’t either.

Arlington National Cemetery caissonAlso, there will be security patrols throughout the cemetery. There has already been a security guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns for at least a few months. The far gates like near the Iwo Jima Memorial will either be closed or have additional security staffing.

The problem for Arlington officials is there isn’t room for more than four security lanes to enter through the visitor center. The only way to fix long lines would be a new, larger building. Maybe that comes one day, but it won’t be tomorrow or next week. Patience will be sorely needed and tested once security begins.

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