The Defense Department is seeking to improve security at what is already one
of the most heavily protected facilities in the world, said Raymond F. DuBois
Jr., deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.
Terrorists first hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines
Flight 77 crashed into the building, killing 184 passengers, military personnel
and civilian workers.
“Immediately after the attack, additional police officers and military
police were placed around the building to help monitor the entrances and parking
lots,” DuBois told National Defense. “Jersey barriers were lined
through the parking lot and road entrances to slow down vehicles.” Since
then, he said, plans to respond to additional terrorist attacks and incidents
involving weapons of mass destruction at the Pentagon are being implemented.
DuBois is, in military jargon, “dual hatted.” He also serves as
the Defense Department’s director of administration and management, making
him in effect “mayor of the Pentagon.” In this position, he succeeded
the legendary, David O. (“Doc”) Cooke, who died in a 2002 automobile
accident after holding the job for more than four decades.
This latest drive to improve Pentagon security began a decade ago, under Cooke,
as part of a thorough renovation of the building. But since 9/11, it has been
accelerated, according to Brett D. Eaton, a spokesman for the project. Completion
now is scheduled for 2010, four years sooner than originally planned. The total
estimated cost: about $3 billion.
As part of this plan, major changes are underway to protect the Pentagon from
additional terrorist assaults, Eaton explained during a tour of the renovation
project. Subway and bus stations have been moved away from the building’s
entrance. Heavily traveled highways, which now pass right by the facility, are
being rerouted to provide more security from potential car bombs.
The Pentagon police force has been enlarged, re-equipped and given a new name,
the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, explained its director, John Jester.
All of this is being done to protect a building that was constructed on the
Virginia side of the Potomac River during a 16-month period in the early days
of World War II. The cost at the time: $83 million.
The Pentagon is one of the largest office buildings in the world. In all, 24,000
military and civilian employees work there, including the secretaries of defense,
Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With more than
3.7 million square feet of office space, it is twice the size of the Merchandise
Mart in Chicago and has three times the floor space of New York City’s
Empire State Building.
In 1990, Congress approved a major renovation plan to upgrade the Pentagon’s
deteriorating, asbestos-filled building systems in order to meet modern health,
fire and life safety codes, and provide reliable electrical, air conditioning
and ventilation services.
The plan calls for the Pentagon’s five wedges, including the first to
the fifth floors, to be renovated one at a time. Work on the first wedge had
just been completed, and 2,600 employees had moved back into their offices,
when the hijacked airliner struck, Eaton explained.
Many of the improvements saved lives, he said. As part of the renovation, the
windows along the E and A Rings of Wedge 1—those opening to the building’s
exterior and inner courtyard—were made of blast-resistant material. “These
windows are an inch and a half thick,” he said. “Each pane weighs
500 pounds. An entire window weighs a ton. During 9/11, these windows saved
thousands of lives.”
Renovation of Wedge 1 also included steel beams that run, from top to bottom
to strengthen building support, Eaton said. In addition, he noted, Kevlar panels
were inserted between the windows to catch fragments from explosions.
While these measures apparently did reduce casualties, the attack devastated
Wedge 1. Four days after the attack, the Defense Department announced that Hensel
Phelps Construction Co., of Chantilly, Va., was awarded a contract, initially
worth $145 million, to rebuild Wedge 1 and to continue renovating the remainder
of the Pentagon. If all of the contract’s options are exercised, the contract
has a potential value of up to $758 million, plus inflation, and will result
in the renovation of approximately four million square feet of building space.
With a vengeance, construction workers plunged into the effort, which was named
the Phoenix Project, after the mythical bird that rose from the ashes of its
own funeral pyre. Nine months after the attack, the exterior of the Pentagon
was whole again. By February of this year, all of the tenants of the impacted
area had returned.
Work on Wedge 2 is now well along. After 9/11, Eaton said, the Pentagon renovation
team ordered some changes in construction plans to prevent recurrence of problems
encountered as a result of the attack. For example:
Other security-related changes are occurring throughout the 583-acre Pentagon
Reservation. After 9/11, for example, the Pentagon and the Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Authority, or Metro, restructured mass transit connections to the
facility, which are used by perhaps 35,000 commuters per day.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, all bus and subway service to the
Pentagon was suspended temporarily. Then, it was restored gradually—with
big changes. In December 2001, defense and Metro officials opened a $36 million
Pentagon Transit Center, with bus bays no closer than 280 feet to the building.
Previously, buses picking up and dropping off passengers came as close as 10
feet to the structure.
Then, in the following July, a rebuilt subway entrance, also located further
from the building, opened its doors. Originally, subway escalators and elevators
fed directly into the structure.
The final phase came in November 2002, with a new Pentagon Entrance Facility,
featuring covered walkways to provide shelter from the weather, closed-circuit
television, emergency call stations, better lighting and multiple security checks,
which begin before entering the building.
To provide a consolidated, secure and safely distant location to receive and
screen the thousands of items shipped into the Pentagon every day, officials
in 2000 opened a 250,000 square-foot Remote Delivery Facility. Built on a former
parking lot, the RDF features 38 loading docks capable of accommodating an average
of 250 trucks per day.
Once a vehicle is cleared to enter the facility, it receives a thorough security
inspection. Canine teams sniff for explosives. Security personnel use mirrors
to check the vehicle’s under carriage. Drivers without building passes
must pass through metal detectors before opening vehicle cargo doors. Materials
being unloaded are x-rayed and subjected to other security inspections. Only
then can the material be transported, via a tunnel, to the Pentagon itself.
Two major highways pass so close to the building that Virginia state troopers
have been stationed along them to bolster security. The renovation program includes
moving them further away from the building. Virginia’s State Route 27,
which passes directly west of the Pentagon, is being rebuilt to improve secure
access for trucks to the RDF. Route 110, which now cuts within feet of the northeast
side of the building, is being rerouted toward the Pentagon Lagoon, an offshoot
of the Potomac River that was created during construction of the facility.
In the aftermath of 9/11, it became clear that the Pentagon police force, then
known as the Defense Protective Service, needed to be strengthened, said Jester.
Before 9/11, DPS focused primarily on controlling access to the building, preventing
theft of physical property and classified material, and keeping antiwar demonstrations
from getting out of hand. “When I look back now on those days, I think
how easy it was,” he said.
In 2002, DPS was replaced by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. The new
unit’s functions included all of those performed by DPS, plus expanded
force protection, antiterrorist and weapons of mass destruction preparedness,
detection, prevention and response missions.
To fulfill these added responsibilities, the agency has more than doubled the
size of its organization. “The challenge that we’ve had—and
we’ve been under some duress—is providing security while building
a new organization,” Jester said. “We have more than 800 people
now, and we’re still hiring.” The agency “is actively recruiting
high-quality, physically fit” individuals, he said.
Military personnel leaving active service are prime candidates, Jester said.
“We spend a lot of time recruiting at military bases.”
Recruits attend a 10.5-week basic course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training
Center, in Brunswick, Ga., followed by eight additional weeks of schooling at
the Pentagon, Jester explained. They study standard police tactics, plus force
protection, coping with weapons of mass destruction and antiterrorism.
Traditionally, Pentagon police officers have been armed with 9 mm automatic
pistols, but “we’re transitioning to .40 calibers,” Jester
said. “A lot of departments are looking at dealing with people wearing
armored vests. If a .40 caliber can’t penetrate one of those vests, it
can at least knock down the person wearing it.”
To fend off serious assaults, the agency has an Emergency Response Team, called
Team Cobra. “It’s a SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team,”
Jester explained. These black-uniformed officers are schooled in the use of
shotguns, automatic weapons and non-lethal devices. Another team specializes
in responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidences.
Jester’s agency is responsible, in addition to the Pentagon Reservation,
for all Defense Department activities in the national capital region not under
the jurisdiction of a military department, including many offices in Crystal
City and Rosslyn.
To get quickly to these locations, the agency maintains a fleet of patrol cars.
In addition, BMW of North America this summer donated six BMW R 1100 RT-P authority
motorcycles, enabling the Pentagon police to create their first motorcycle unit.
Jester said he expects the motorcycles to be especially useful navigating around
the congested Pentagon campus and nearby city streets.
To help Pentagon employees prepare to cope with disasters such as 9/11, the
department is staging increasing numbers of CBRN training exercises. They range
from “tabletop” simulations to live scenarios conducted both inside
the building and on surrounding grounds.
One of the largest in recent years—dubbed “Gallant Fox”—was
held in July. Pentagon police, along with hazardous materials units and fire
engine units from nearby Alexandria, Arlington and the District of Columbia,
were asked to respond to a simulated truck explosion that released a chemical
As the Pentagon’s ability to provide its own security improves, Jester
said, the department is “phasing out” its reliance on the Army reserve
and National Guard military police personnel, in armored humvees with automatic
weapons, who have been guarding the building since 9/11.
“At one point, we probably had 300 MPs here,” Jester said. “Those
people are needed elsewhere.”