There are a variety of different threats posing various levels of risks to the White House and its workers and inhabitants. The risk of an actual penetration by a small group of terrorists or militants carries a fairly low risk, given current security procedures and personnel; a heavy artillery military attack is even less likely given national defense systems and the sheer geopolitical implications of such an act. Greater subterfuge is likely to be employed in any truly risky threat; hidden bomb attacks, biological or chemical attacks with timed detonators or active triggers must be carefully screened for, as these represent one of the greatest threats to White House security in terms of both their potential damage and the likelihood of such an attack being attempted due to potential anonymity and attacker distance.
There are also many non-intentional and human-based threats that affect the security and safety of the White House and those within its walls. A variety of natural disasters including potential fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and even potential flooding could all occur, and although the risk level for most of these events is very low the results of any such disaster could be catastrophic without appropriate countermeasures and safety procedures in place (FEMA 2011). It is believed that proper procedures, evacuation plans, and safety measures exist for each of these contingencies at the current time, although a reassessment and revaluation of these procedures and safety implements would still be valuable (WhiteHouse 2011). Plane crashes and direct espionage are also threats that have elaborate contingency plans established (Douglass 1995).
Current Vulnerability Gaps
A major current vulnerability facing the white house is found in the sheer number of individuals that have access to various parts of the White House and its grounds (WhiteHouse 2011). Though there are security procedures in place to screen such individuals prior to their selection for White House positions and onsite security screenings to ensure unauthorized weapons and personnel are not permitted onto White House grounds, the threat of infiltration through direct espionage is still considerable. There do not appear to be any other major vulnerability gaps facing the White House at this time, as potential threats of many different types and mechanisms are often observed and eradicated long before they come within range of creating harm to the White House or anyone within its walls.
The White House grounds are patrolled and monitored by a variety of security personnel and technologies, not all of which are matters of public knowledge, but which provide very tight restrictions on access for both individuals and equipment (WHHA 2001; Douglass 1995). Other physical threats to the structure and inhabitants of the White House are mitigated by structural elements of the building, several emergency escape routes, and advanced warning systems that provide time for evacuation and preparation in the event of a natural disaster (WhiteHouse 2011). Aggression by authorized personnel remains one of the greatest physical threats.
Increases in the digital storage and transmission of information has profoundly changed the nature of information security as practiced in the White House, though certain protocols involving paper documents are still in effect (WHHA 2001). A variety of specifically-developed as well as more commonly available methods for protecting digital information are utilized to ensure the security of information at the White House, and information transmitted to or from White House computers and their devices (Russel & Gangemi 1991). Given the importance of much of the information created and transmitted to/from the White House information security is a top priority for White House officials and officers, and control of access to information is incredibly tight and restrictive (Russel & Gangemi 1991).
The security of certain individuals within the White House, most especially the President and his family, is also of central importance to security measures and practices at the White House. The personnel and technologies that monitor the White House grounds and surrounding environs are highly effective at dissuading, rooting out, and eliminating any threats to individuals within the White House (Douglass 1995). In addition, the Secret Service is tasked with the specific priority duty of protecting the lives of the President, his family, and other key individuals that are often found in the White House, and this organization has a very high success rate (though with some notable failures) in carrying out this task (WHHA 2001).