What to know about security precautions in the works for the Republican National Convention – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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As with any national special security event, this summer’s 2024 Republican National Convention in downtown Milwaukee has security officials preparing for potential physical and cybersecurity threats.

Of particular focus at a Tuesday meeting of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee were the protection of critical infrastructure and utilities.

“There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny paid to this town and paid to your equipment and your services in the coming months, do you feel like you’re ready?” electrical utilities were asked at a recent meeting, according to Andy Bochman, senior grid strategist for Idaho National Laboratory’s National and Homeland Security directorate.

He told Rotary members that government officials offered any assistance the utilities may need, and there will be more of that in the months to come.

Andy Bochman, senior grid strategist for Idaho National Laboratory’s National and Homeland Security directorate, speaks about security preparations for the upcoming Republican National Convention in downtown Milwaukee.

What kinds of cybersecurity threats are officials preparing for during the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee?

Officials are preparing for a range of threats, from someone trying to cause a disruption “kind of for the fun of it” to other nations targeting critical infrastructure like electricity, natural gas and water treatment, Bochman said.

“All of those folks that own and run those different infrastructure components, they all have significant cybersecurity programs. They all practice and train and exercise. And they all have problems because there is no such thing as a perfectly secure organization,” he said.

John Busch, protective security advisor in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said preparations have been underway for 18 months.

Busch, who said he also co-chairs the Critical Infrastructure Subcommittee for the RNC, said other utilities officials are working with include water and wastewater, telecommunications, transportation, and all energy sectors.

“We have a longstanding relationship with them, we’ve been doing a lot of work well in advance of this to make sure that we know the right folks, we know how to communicate efficiently, we understand what their policies, procedures and plans are should something happen,” he said.

How will traffic be impacted in the area of the 2024 RNC?

Busch said there will be two perimeters around the RNC: A “vehicular perimeter” and a “credentialed perimeter.”

The first will be a “vehicular perimeter” bounded roughly by I-43 to the west, I-794 to the south, the Milwaukee River the east and West Walnut Street to the north, he said.

Those who live and work within that area will still be able to go in and out but will feel some impacts from the event, he said.

He urged businesses to figure out in advance whether — and how — they plan to telework the week of the event.

The inner perimeter will be a “credentialed” perimeter that the U.S. Secret Service will fence off. That perimeter will be published closer to the July 15-18 event, he said.

As for traffic more broadly, he noted the tens of thousands of people expected to come to Milwaukee for the RNC and recommended that drivers build in more time to reach their destinations.

He expected additional information to be available at meetings for residents and businesses on April 11.

When can residents and businesses learn more about effects of the Republican National Convention on travel, access?

Two events will be held April 11 at the Baird Center in downtown Milwaukee, one of the event venues for the RNC.

The events will be held to provide additional information for people who are living or working near the convention, Bochman said.

At 10 a.m. will be a session for operators and staff of businesses likely to fall in or near the security zone.

At 6 p.m. will be a session for residents likely to be in or near the security zone.

Alison Dirr can be reached at [email protected].

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