Federal office buildings stay on high alert

For the second day in a row, federal employees were greeted with increased security as they headed in to work. An official at the General Services Administration, which acts as the government's landlord, said buildings will be on high alert indefinitely. For federal employees and the general public, that means being subject to more intrusive searches when entering government buildings. At the Department of Veterans Affairs-located across Lafayette Park from the White House-visitors are greeted by warnings posted at the main entrance: "100% identification checks in effect. Guards must touch your identification badges. Bags will be inspected." "I've worked here for 22 years and it is the highest level of security I've ever seen," said Susan Mather, chief public health and environmental hazards officer. "But people are handling a stressful situation very well." In a city where patience is a rare commodity and waiting in line is viewed as an annoyance, most people entering federal buildings handled the increased security well. At the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, visitors waited patiently to pass through metal detectors and have their bags inspected. Under normal circumstances, the general public is allowed to enter the building-which houses a mix of federal, international and private offices-freely. Since Tuesday, everyone has had to pass through a security check. Cars entering the underground parking garage are subject to a search. That led to major traffic delays during the early morning rush hour. "I hope it stays like this forever," said a GSA employee monitoring a security checkpoint at the Reagan Building. Even the Smithsonian museums have beefed up security. Three armed officers stand in a row at the entrance to the National Gallery and inspect all bags. After the inspection, bags must be checked at the coatroom. Only purses and cameras can be carried into the museum. A similar scene is being played out at the Air and Space Museum. According to William Whitaker of visitor services at the National Gallery, most people have been very understanding of the new measures.