DoD Holds Press Briefing in Pentagon
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 11, 2001 "The Pentagon is functioning" is the message Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent by holding a press conference in the building's briefing room barely eight hours after terrorists allegedly crashed a hijacked commercial jetliner into the national military headquarters.
"It's an indication that the United States is functioning in the face of this terrible act against our country," Rumsfeld said. "(The Pentagon) will be in business tomorrow."
Accompanying Rumsfeld on the press conference podium were several other senior federal officials including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Rumsfeld, and U.S. Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Carl Levin of Michigan.
The secretary told reporters it's not possible to have solid casualty figures at this time and that the various Defense Department components are working to account for their people. He said there could be no survivors among the 64 passengers aboard the commercial plane that crashed into the building.
"There is no question but that the attack today was a vicious, a well-coordinated, massive attack against the United States of America," Rumsfeld said. "What words the lawyers will use to characterize it is for them (to decide)."
Shelton called the events of Sept. 11 "an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics." He said this was a reminder of the "tragic dangers" that military people face day in and day out. The chairman refused to discuss what actions the United States would take in retaliation.
"But make no mistake about it," he said, "your armed forces are ready."
Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called terrorists "the common enemy of the civilized world." "Our intense focus on recovering and helping the injured and families of those killed is matched only by our determination to prevent more attacks," he said.
"This is indeed the most tragic hour in America's history," said Warner, former committee chairman and its ranking minority party member. "And yet I think it can be our finest hour as our president and those with him (including) the men and women of the armed forces stand ready not only to defend this nation and our allies against further attack but to take such actions as are directed in the future in retaliation for this series of terrorist attacks (that are) unprecedented in world history."
Warner called upon the entire world to step up and help. "We're in this together," he said. "The United States has borne the brunt, but who can be next. Step forward and let us hold accountable and punish those that have perpetrated this event."
Asked by reporters about possible retaliation, Rumsfeld called the question premature.
Family members may contact service representatives:
- Army: 1-800-984-8523 or 703-428-0002.
- Navy and Marine Corps: 1-877-663-6772
- Air Force: 1-800-253-9276.
Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the Pentagon are also asked to call 1-877-663-6772 for accountability purposes, defense officials said.