Renovation of Pentagon Includes Tighter Security

By Kennedy, Harold | National Defense, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Renovation of Pentagon Includes Tighter Security


Kennedy, Harold, National Defense


The Defense Department is seeking to improve security at what is already one of the most heavily protected facilities in the world, said Raymond E 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 thousalads of lives."

Renovation of Wedge I 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. …

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