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Expanded RNC confab raises security issues

Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is reflected in the sunglasses of a Secret Service Agent as he speaks at a town hall meeting at Bradley University on March 19, 2012 in Peoria, Illinois. Illinois voters head to the polls on March 20 for a primary election. UPI/Brian Kersey
Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is reflected in the sunglasses of a Secret Service Agent as he speaks at a town hall meeting at Bradley University on March 19, 2012 in Peoria, Illinois. Illinois voters head to the polls on March 20 for a primary election. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

TAMPA, Fla., March 20 (UPI) -- Events at off-site venues will raise the cost of Secret Service protection at the Republican and Democratic national conventions, a U.S. House panel learned.

The Secret Service's top official recently told congressional members the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., included possible activities at locations other than the main sites, creating cost issues for providing protection, The Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Fla., reported Monday.

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"Both the RNC and DNC have added events to their schedule that will be located some distance from the convention site and will attract large numbers of people," Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said in written testimony submitted this month to a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee.

Sullivan said, "[The] addition of these venues will likely require more protective site personnel and equipment" as dignitaries, delegates and the public "move from one secure zone to the next."

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The changes could impact the agency's original cost projections and "will require close monitoring," he said.

The Secret Service secures the venues for national political conventions in a variety of ways, including uniformed officers, Transportation Security Administration personnel, metal detectors, canine explosive detection teams, as well as its counter-assault and counter-sniper personnel.

The matter hasn't been raised as a potential problem in discussions with local officials, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Tampa police Chief Jane Castor all told the Times.

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Foster told the Times he hadn't "heard a thing" about plans to pay for security at a possible pre-convention welcome party at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Asked whether Tampa's $50 million federal grant for security could cover some of St. Petersburg's costs, Castor said, "whether it can or it can't, we're going to make sure it's a safe event."

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