As the D.C. Council braces itself to vote on the lease agreement for a new baseball stadium, we pose a simple but fundamental question: Who shall be in charge of security?
If the stadium were planned for some other area, we probably wouldn’t be as concerned. However, the ballpark will be located amid a ring of strategic federal installations on the Anacostia River: from Fort McNair, the National War College and the National Defense University to the west, the U.S. Capitol to the north, the U.S. Navy Yard to the east and Bolling Air Force Base, Naval Air Station, Defense Intelligence Center and Naval Research Lab to the south. Also, the headquarters for the U.S. Coast Guard is likely to become a neighbor, too, and some Homeland Security Department offices might join the ring of federal installations.
So the question becomes: Who shall be in charge of security amid that new environment?
At the Washington Redskins’ Fed Ex Field, Maryland State and Prince George’s Police are routinely present on game days. Fed Ex also has private security for the team and on game days. (And fans always suspect that, with so many Washington notables attending games, the Secret Service doesn’t shade its eyes from potential security risks.)
Article 5 of the baseball lease agreement, which lawmakers are expected to vote on this week, clearly spells out who will be expected to pay for security: “At its expense, the Team shall provide reasonable and customary public safety and security services on the Baseball Stadium Site and in the Baseball Stadium Complex at all times; provided, however, that the Team shall have no obligation to provide such services on Commission Event Days or any time in or in respect of Commission Additions. The Team is not responsible for public safety and security in areas outside the Baseball Stadium Site. At its expense, the Commission shall provide reasonable and customary public safety and security services (i) during Commission Event Days as determined in consultation with the Team and (ii) in respect of Commission Additions.”
While there are no ambiguities therein on costs, the agreement fails to address the team’s and the city’s subordinate security roles in the nation’s capital in general or in a high-risk area in particular. If the first terrorist strikes were aimed at the Pentagon, White House and Capitol, the fourth target could well be along the Anacostia River.
During a luncheon meeting last week with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Mayor Tony Williams and Sports and Entertainment Commission Chairman Mark Touhey were queried about national security and the new stadium. Mr. Touhey said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has some concerns. Indeed, he should, as should the D.C. Council and the Secret Service. After all, the site of the proposed stadium is a high-risk area — and we don’t mean at risk from the Goodyear blimp.