BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — In 33 years with the Secret Service, Michael Williams was involved many times in security planning for presidential inaugurations, but he says Wednesday’s event is unique compared to the ones he dealt with.
Williams, who retired in 2019, is the former special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Birmingham field office. He said planning for an inauguration typically starts more than a year in advance. It involves coordination among the Secret Service, local and federal law enforcement and congressional subcommittees. He says training and preparation are critical.
“We rehearse and we make sure that everything goes right,” he said. “And in the event they don’t, you have to have a backup plan. So again, I think the training and coordination that we put into these large-scale events is probably the key to the success the agency has had throughout the years.”
On the heels of the attack on the Capitol, he says the agencies involved likely tightened up any parts of their security plan they deemed necessary. Watching the attack happen on Jan. 6, Williams says he knew something wasn’t right.
“Just knowing the process and how that works, I just knew something had gone wrong, and the planning of that operation did not go as planned,” he said.
Williams said there will be an increased military presence at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration as a result of what happened two weeks ago. He said the Secret Service always has adverse intelligence to address before an inauguration, but he never had to address as much as what officials have encountered this year.
He’s confident, however, that all the agencies involved will have the situation under control. If everything goes smoothly, he said it will lead to a day with a very rewarding ending.
“At the end of the night, after the last inaugural ball, and we’re actually able to take the President back to the White House and put him in for the night, at that moment, you’re able to exhale and say, ‘Wow, the country had a great day. The Secret Service had a great day,'” Williams said.