EDITOR’S NOTE: Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, previously was the president and CEO of the Organizing Committee for the Salt Lake Winter Games. He has authored the new book Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership and the Olympic Games. This is the second in a five-part series of excerpts to coincide with the Summer Games; the first appeared here and the second here. The excerpts comprise Chapter 15 of Turnaround.
It is an understatement to say that September 11, 2001 changed our perception of security. While we had always contemplated the possibility of a large-scale terrorist incident in our planning, it was completely different to suddenly find the threat so real. While we planned for international terrorism, our discussions centered around the threats closer to home.
For me, two things were clear. First, I knew I could not let people come to Salt Lake unless I believed everything that could be done, had been done to keep them safe. And, second, unless the federal government stepped up and assumed responsibility for meeting this new terrorist threat to the Salt Lake Games, there would be no Games.
On the morning following the attacks, Cindy and I called Senator Hatch, who was in his Senate office, and asked if we could get together to talk about how to go forward. He told us to come right over.
I was the only person going into the Hart Building when I arrived that morning. Behind his desk, Senator Hatch was reading newspaper articles that had been highlighted for his review. We spent much of the morning talking about what had happened and how it was likely to change the country. He assured us that Congress would recognize the need for additional security. But with only four months left and the official federal budget close to completion for the year, I was wary of bureaucratic inefficiencies. Cindy had previously suggested to me that I ask for Senator Hatch to arrange a summit with the attorney general, secretary of the army, each of the public safety agency heads, and key Congressional leaders. Literally, we were asking for a summit to decide if the federal government wanted our Games to go on. It would take an enormous commitment of resources and people; we did not have the time to spend going through the normal Washington decision-making process. Senator Hatch liked the idea and committed to make it happen. We would shoot for three weeks away. In the meantime, the UOPSC and its federal partners would redo the public safety plan so we would know what was needed.
Within days, SLOC, UOPSC and the key federal agencies sat down to revisit every detail of our plan. When they had scrubbed it thoroughly, they presented to the governor, the mayor and me their recommendations for needed enhancements. There were training facilities and temporary housing for the athletes near the venues that had not been slated for enforced perimeters. They would all have to be secured. We would need a far more comprehensive and aggressive plan to patrol the airspace above the venues. An air CAP (Combat Aircraft Patrol) and a possible shut-down of the airport were on the table. The Secret Service felt strongly that we should assign military or law enforcement personnel to our magnetometer stations, which in our original plan were slated for trained security volunteers. The governor decided to cancel an event he was planning for the public and SLOC eliminated or scaled back others we had planned. The only question was whether or not to merge the city’s plans for nightly celebrations at city hall into other Olympic events that were already in secured venues. While I strongly felt that in this time of limited resources it was inappropriate to divert law enforcement personnel, equipment and fencing to cover this event, the mayor felt equally strongly that the city should continue with its plans. We agreed to disagree for the moment.
The estimated cost of these enhancements would be $40 million, $30 million for additional personnel and for improvements in the air defense system. About $10 million would be directed toward UOPSC for purchases of equipment and fencing as well as additional personnel costs for venues under UOPSC’s command. Cindy and I met with Senator Bennett over the weekend to discuss the figures. He felt confident that his colleagues in the Senate would do what was necessary to protect the Games. He also expressed his view that the Games would not be a target of international terrorism. Bin Laden, he explained, was far too effective a politician to wish to alienate the entire world by attacking the Olympics. And, his modus operandi was to lay low following an attack. The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks had probably taken five years to prepare, and were Bin Laden’s greatest moment. Bennett believed that he would lay low for a few years before bringing out another team of terrorists. We all hoped he was right.
As the Secret Service, FBI, DoD and FEMA passed the revised plans up the chain for review back in Washington, I had a conversation with our White House liaison, Joe Hagin. Congress and the White House were working on an emergency supplemental to help New York, rebuild the Pentagon, and begin to prepare for war. Our money needed to be in that supplemental so we were racing the clock to get the new security plan approved. Joe told me that it was definitely on everyone’s radar screen that more money and more troops would be needed for Salt Lake. He expressed confidence that by the time we held the meeting that Senator Hatch was organizing with Attorney General Ashcroft, Army Secretary Thomas White and other key decision-makers, there would be federal agreement on a revised plan for Salt Lake.