U.S. Tells D.C. to Pay Inaugural Security Expenses

U.S. Tells D.C. to Pay Inaugural Expenses (WaPo, A01)

D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week’s inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects. Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years — money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.


A spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, agreed with the mayor’s stance. He called the Bush administration’s position “simply not acceptable.” “It’s an unfunded mandate of the most odious kind. How can the District be asked to take funds from important homeland security projects to pay for this instead?” said Davis spokesman David Marin.


OMB spokesman Chad Kolton said no additional appropriation is needed for the inauguration. “We think that an appropriate balance of money from [the annual reimbursement] fund and from homeland security grants is the most effective way to cover the additional cost the city incurs,” Kolton said. “We recognize the city has a special burden to bear for many of these events. . . . That’s expressly why in the post-9/11 era we are providing additional resources.”

I agree with Davis that this constitutes an unfunded mandate, although, so far as I’m aware, the federal government typically does not reimburse localities for the additional expenses incurred for presidential visits. Saying this would come out of “homeland security” funds sounds terrible–this is really just a giant party, after all–but the main reason D.C. gets so much homeland security funding is precisely because it’s the seat of government and incurs huge expenses for this sort of thing. As Steven Taylor notes, the piece simply doesn’t give us enough information to know for sure. Given the OMB’s position, though, I’m presuming that inaugural security expenses were already factored in with the 2005 appropriations.

The piece also contains this old canard:

Federal employees who work in the District, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax and Arlington counties, Alexandria and Falls Church are entitled to a holiday on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, the Office of Personnel Management has announced. As of June, the cost of giving federal workers in the capital area a day off was about $66 million.

Although I’m not a federal employee, I’m a government contractor and do get the day off. However, there is zero “cost” associated with this holiday; it’s not as if people get paid an additional day’s salary. It is true that the taxpayers don’t get a day of work in exchange for their money on holidays. On the other hand, work that has to be done somehow manages to get done. Parkinson’s Law and all that.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eric says:

    I’m a government contractor and don’t get the day off. I think, perhaps, that with all of the Gvt. workers out of the office, the contractors will be able to do more work than would othewise get done.

  2. Guest says:

    The federal government may not typically reimburse localities for presidential visits – I’m not sure. But it is clear from the blogs I’ve been reading that every administration before this one (including Bush 2000) has covered the costs. For some reason, the administration has chosen to change that precedent.

  3. cj says:

    Perhaps the “cost” is in part due to paying “essential workers” holiday pay?

    Just a thought.