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Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Face Tougher Security Screenings

A series of new requirements at Arlington National Cemetery will force all visitors to go through additional security screening when entering the grounds, officials announced Monday.

Currently, visitors can bypass the welcome center when coming into the cemetery by the main entrance, and those who enter at two other points receive little to no scrutiny.

The new system, which goes into effect in November, will force all visitors who come through the main entrance on foot to go through the welcome center to be screened and have bags searched.

Those authorized to enter the cemetery grounds by vehicle will need to show a valid driver's license in addition to their temporary or permanent vehicle pass.

The screenings in the visitor center and at the foot traffic-only access points from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and near the Marine Corps Memorial will be similar to security checkpoints at the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., said Jennifer Lynch, a cemetery spokesperson. Visitors there are asked to walk through a simple metal detector while a security guard searches bags.

"We've been, over the last two years, incrementally increasing security at the cemetery," she said. "The Army takes security seriously, but it has worked with Arlington to develop a balanced approach given the cemetery's unique mission and the number of visitors we have."

Between three and four million people visit Arlington National Cemetery every year.

The cemetery's border, which is currently marked by a short, stone wall, could be the subject of increased security later, Lynch said. No perimeter security increases are being made as part of this rollout, she added.

The cemetery put some security changes in place two years ago, including random bag searches, after a terrorist attack at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada, in which Canadian soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot while guarding the memorial, Lynch said. The U.S. Army directed the additional security upgrades after the 2015 terrorist attacks on a Chattanooga, Tennessee, recruiting station.

Vehicle access to the cemetery is limited to those attending funerals and the families of those buried or inurned there. While the new system requires visitors to show a valid driver's license, Arlington will not follow rules for other federal facilities by restricting access to only those who hold licenses from states that comply with the Real ID Act, Lynch said.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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