Steel Spikes Proposed to Add Security for White House Fence

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Photographer: Boston Globe /Boston Globe via Getty Images

Steel spikes may be added to the iron fencing surrounding the White House grounds in Washington as a deterrent to intruders hopping the barrier, such as a man who made it inside the executive mansion in September before being apprehended by the Secret Service.

The National Park Service has submitted the plan, a U.S. official said, and is awaiting blessing from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission.

The removable spikes, which would be afixed to the existing fence, are a temporary solution until a permanent replacement fence can be designed and erected, according to the Park Service.

“We are working with our partners to develop, as quickly as possible, both interim and long-term solutions that meet today’s security needs while respecting the historic setting and significance of the White House,” the Park Service said in a statement. “The interim solution enhances security without affecting the visitor’s experience.”

An independent panel that examined the Secret Service and security at the White House recommended that the existing fence be raised as much as five feet from its current 7-foot 6-inch height and that its horizontal bars be eliminated.

Buying Time

“A better fence can provide time, and time is crucial to the protective mission,” the panel said in its report. “Every additional second of response time provided by a fence that is more difficult to climb makes a material difference in ensuring the president’s safety and protecting the symbol that is the White House.”

The proposal was reported earlier by WRC-TV in Washington. The station cited documents saying the Park Service is considering making the new permanent fence as tall as 10 feet. A second fence inside the White House grounds is also under consideration.

“I can assure you that everybody who is working on this issue has a sense of urgency,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

A temporary waist-level fence was erected around the White House perimeter in September, in an effort to give Secret Service agents more time to respond to jumpers. The White House complex was temporarily shut down on Sunday when a four-year-old child slipped behind that shorter barrier.

The documents obtained by WRC-TV indicated the Park Service had ruled out other security proposals, including the construction of a moat, electrifying the fence, or installing barbed wire.

Earnest said officials needed to balance competing interests, such as keeping the first family and staff safe while preserving the openness of the White House to the public.