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DoD News Briefing - Pentagon Update

Presenters: John F. Irby, Director, Federal Facilities Division
September 14, 2001 1:00 PM EDT

Friday, September 14, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.

(Also participating: Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs; Army Maj. Gen. Jim Jackson, commanding general, Military District of Washington; James Schwartz, assistant chief, Arlington County Fire Department; and Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs. Slides used in this briefing are available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Sep2001/g010914-D-6570.html )

Clarke: Hi, folks.

This afternoon we'd like to discuss the situation in the Pentagon, and joining us will be three people:

John F. Irby, I-R-B-Y, who's the director of the Federal Facilities Division. He's going to discuss the initial damage assessment of the Pentagon. And I just want to emphasize, as I have been, a lot of these things we're talking about -- they are preliminary assessments, preliminary numbers, et cetera. He's got some slides to show you about the damage, floor by floor. And he is responsible for the overall building management.

Major General Jim Jackson, who's been up here before, commanding general of the Military District of Washington. You met the other day. He's responsible for the military support here in the building, the activities like security, labor, and the DoD liaison with the fire, police, and the other federal agencies involved in the combined operations center.

And James Schwartz, who is the assistant chief of the Arlington County Fire Department.

And we're going to ask each of them to step up and just make a brief statement, just give you sort of their status check, and then open it up to questions.

Q: Can I ask just one brief, quick housekeeping question? Y'all have passed out the announcement that the president has authorized to call up up to 50,000.

Clarke: Yes.

Q: And the SecDef is moving to call up up to 35,500 total. Can you tell me when you expect that first call-up to be, the initial call-up?

Clarke: If you wait until -- what time, gentlemen?

Staff: Two-thirty.

Clarke: -- two-thirty, we will brief you.

Q: Well, can you give some idea now when the initial call-up would be, what days --

Clarke: It depends on the services' needs. But we're talking, in some instances, days. But it's up to the individual services, on their needs, in how they call them up.

Sure. Mr. Irby?

Irby: (To staff.) Can we have the slides?

Staff: (Off mike.)

Irby: There we go. Okay.

We took a big hit, but two-thirds of the building is operating in a normal manner. And as we work through with the FBI and Arlington County, as other areas are turned over to us for damage control and mitigation, we expect to expand that area to an even greater percentage of the space.

Up there you can see the green is the area of collapse, where the aircraft hit. The red is the approximate area of the fire, and the blue is the area of water damage.

Ventilation air is another important aspect of normal building operation. We've changed the air filters. They were obviously very sooty. And our air handlers, old as they might be, decrepit as they might be, they're still working -- to 1942 standards, perhaps, but they're still working. And what we're able to do with the control system that we added fairly recently, we're able to optimize the intake of outside air, which in essence pressurizes the areas that are operated with fresh air and forces the contaminates back over into the area of damage. We'll keep watching this. We've sampled the material that our air filters have collected and found it to be within the acceptable limits.

Domestic water is connected with the firewater through the piping system, and they're both very critical. The impact of the aircraft and the explosion did cause us to lose pressure within that system. But again, our mechanics responded and valved-off the damaged areas so that the fire department could have adequate water again to fight the fire. As we expand the areas of operation, we'll have to do some cutting and capping of those lines to make sure that all of the areas, old and new, have the kind of domestic water and fire protection that codes would require.

Again, as we move from the area where we are now to other areas that will be made available to us, we'll have to restore function to the fire alarm system, and that will take a certain amount of assessment that we haven't been able to make yet. But we'll have to look at those systems and see what kind of damage they sustained.

Soot cleanup is another important area to our occupants. We have 250 regular contract cleaners that are here working that, and 100 emergency fire and flood cleanup specialists that are augmenting that staff.

And as you move around in the building now, especially on the upper floors, you'll move from an area where it smells kind of sooty and smoky to an area where it smells like disinfectant. The floors are shiny and what have you. So that's what we're moving towards.

But, you know, I'd summarize by just saying that the Pentagon is an amazing building that you develop a warmth and a respect for its capability to respond to an emergency, and we're finding that it got us through this problem. And you just learn to love the building like a sailor loves his ship.

Q: How much would you estimate the damage was?

Clarke: Sir, we're going to let -- (off mike) -- let each one make a statement.

Jackson: Good afternoon.

First of all, I'd like to just offer up the fact that the support and the working relationships that have been established between all agencies and all support organizations continues to impress all of us. This is certainly a team effort and everybody's responding in absolutely a superb manner.

The military continues to support all the agencies primarily in several functions. First of all, in providing a command and control cell that dovetails into all the other command and control structures so that we can understand each other to make sure that where the support is needed, we can meet that requirement. We're doing some limited security inside and outside of the Pentagon in addition to what is normally here. I'm also providing light labor organizations so that they can do the hefting and toting that has to be done, and that includes debris from inside the building and some remains. We also have a technical engineer company here that is working alongside the urban search and rescues. Day to day, my numbers range anywhere from 500 to 700, depending on what's going on.

Bottom line, soldiers are doing a great job and they're meeting and exceeding all the requirements that we're placing on them, and they continue to support everything that we ask them to do, and they're doing a great job.

Thank you.

Schwartz: Good afternoon.

First off, I'd like to echo General Jackson's comments about the level of cooperation among all the agencies, all the levels of government represented here in the effort here over the last couple of days. It's been really a remarkable, I guess, experience for all of us just how well everything has worked and how cooperative everybody has worked together to get things done.

I'll give you a little bit of an update on what we're doing right now. We continue to work on our efforts to shore up the building in those areas as identified on the map that are most heavily damaged. It's extremely crucial that we make sure that we have a structurally sound area to work in so that we are not putting the rescuers at further risk and that we aren't losing a portion of the building in our efforts to remove either live victims or any remaining victims -- or remains of victims, rather.

I want to emphasize, though, at the same time that we are working aggressively to shore up the building and ensure structural stability, we are at the same time working those efforts to search for live victims and try and work with the Evidence Response Teams of the FBI to collect evidence as a whole part of the process here involved in both the rescue effort and the crime scene. It's kind of a unique situation not just because of the kind of incident that it is, but also because we have, obviously, a large rescue effort underway. But at some point we want to ensure that the criminal investigation is not impeded in some way.

We were talking this morning in the command post about the nature of this particular incident, and we recognized, I guess, finally a few days into this incident that while I think everybody is somewhat used to plane crashes and have heard of building collapses, and at the same time experienced or seen or witnessed at some point building fires, this is truly a unique situation in that we have all three of those events wrapped into one, and that is complicating a great deal the efforts that we have here.

I'll give you one more piece in terms of recent events, and that is an update from the situation regarding the fire that occurred last night. The situation is -- the fire occurred in that collapsed area. I have continually stated that from the very beginning the fire situation in this particular incident has been extremely difficult. It was not a typical fire when we arrived on Tuesday morning, and it does not -- it has not ever gone into a typical fire situation.

We have heavy fire in an area where there was collapse, and there is an awful lot of material beneath that collapse that is still quite hot. I'm not surprised at all by the idea that there is still burning going on underneath there; it's just that you're not seeing a whole lot of it because it's very deep-seated. As that burning continues, or as the rubble starts to shift, we get air in there and then we see a little bit of flame come out, as we did last night.

We continue our fire watch operations; continued them after the fire was extinguished last night, and continue them today as we go further with this operation, and we'll continue that as we see necessary for the remainder of the incident.

Quigley: Ladies and gentlemen, if you would then direct your questions to one or the other of them, depending on the topic --

Q: I have a question for Mr. Irby. How much do you estimate it will cost to repair the damage?

Irby: I think it's too soon to know that. We don't have a -- well, as the chief pointed out, all of the damage hasn't occurred yet. We're still having problems that we're having to deal with, and certainly there's a lot of testing that needs to go on before we could give a reliable estimate.

Q: But as a ballpark figure, could it be in the tens of millions of dollars? Or is it likely to be --

Irby: Oh, it's much more than that.

Q: Much more than tens of millions?

Irby: Yes.

Q: May I ask a question to the gentleman -- (inaudible) -- there?

Quigley: As I say, I'll do the pointing, I guess.

Ivan, go ahead.

Q: Okay. You may have addressed this, sir, earlier on, but, obviously, tons of water fighting the fires, have been poured into the building and have gone down to the lower levels. Any idea as to the amount of flooding and the amount of water damage that's been caused and what has been damaged?

Irby: Well, our diagrams, if you could flip back through, show the areas of water damage. And the blue there represents that water damage. It's -- again, if you look at, say, from a dollar-and-cents point of view, probably the largest damage will be carpet damage, because to get to the carpet all of the furniture will have to be taken up and all of the documents dealt with. So the documents may be dry, but the carpet under it is going to need to be replaced or sanitized, and -- again, we haven't gotten into all of the areas yet for developing that kind of information because we've got other more critical things to deal with now.

Q: Sir, just a follow-up if I may, I'm talking more about such equipment as computers. And is there anything sensitive or classified down there -- any danger to classified documents being destroyed beyond repair?

Irby: No. The area is under security and -- General Jackson, do you -- I think you're more competent to answer that.

Jackson: As we work through the building, and as the fire department clears certain sections and the FBI clears certain sections, we are working with them to get our teams in to be able to assess and pick up and get back into contained, or containers, the security items that we might need. Computers are being addressed. We have in fact retrieved some. We're working with the fire department to get some additional ones. And of course documents fit in the same category. But the site is secure.

Quigley: Barbara?

Q: I think I'd like to ask the chief who was addressing this. You talked a little bit about search and rescue and recovery. And if you could talk about that a bit more in terms of what -- how many people you have on site today for both fire watch, search and recovery.

And you spoke about searching still for live victims. And in reality, do you have any sense that that still might be a possibility? What's the status of all of this?

Schwartz: Well, I'll take your last question first, the part about do we have a realistic expectation that there are live victims in there. We want to remain optimistic. The area that we have had the most difficulty gaining thorough access to is the area of the collapse. And while that was the area in which there was the heaviest fire involvement, in terms of what we've experienced before in collapse situations, it provides the greatest opportunity for survivable victims.

So there are a lot of factors here at play. But what I would say is that the thousands of people involved in this whole thing, in this entire incident, do remain optimistic. The rescue crews continue to go about their job hoping that they will find somebody.

Your question about the number of people out there. The USAR teams that are working, there are two USAR teams -- that is, Urban Search and Rescue teams -- that are working under the direction of FEMA. Those two teams are 70 persons each, and there are two teams deployed for each work period. The work periods are 12 hours long. They begin at 7:00 in the morning and go to 7:00 at night. So it is a 24-hour-a-day operation.

The additional fire and rescue staff that's out there are approximately another 50 individuals that are engaged in support activities as well as the fire watch activities that I discussed before.

Q: And can you also update us on how many sets of remains you have brought out now?

Schwartz: I'm not going to get into numbers right now. I'm sure that at some point the FBI will be willing to talk about the numbers.

Quigley: Dale.

Q: Again for the chief. Some of the members of Congress who visited yesterday were told that the need to keep the rest of the building operating, with particularly electricity, has created some problems in the effort that you're making because there's a lot of electrical sparking, arcing going on in areas that are hot and with still perhaps fuel around. Could you address how much of a problem, again, the need to keep this building operating has created for your effort?

Schwartz: Well, let me say this. We've worked very cooperatively with Defense Department officials, with the Pentagon officials to try and get as much of this building operable as possible. We've worked -- you know, we have worked, I would say, since day two to very carefully assess what the damages were and, probably more importantly, what the effect of opening certain portions of the building was going to have on our operation. And so after we've -- we have opened pieces incrementally.

I mean, we did a large portion, I guess, on day two -- my days are sort of running together here, but -- and then we've opened up a few more pieces incrementally.

To be honest with you, in terms of the issue of electricity, nothing significant along those lines has been reported to me, as the incident commander. And what I would have to say is that even if there was some difficulty, the teams that are working inside are constantly monitoring the risks and hazards associated with the work, and if we had any kind of significant problem, you know, we would withdraw quickly.

Q: Chief, at some point are you going to have to get in with heavy equipment into that collapsed area, to start taking things away? And there's almost always a complication of if there are any live victims, you know, that becomes a negative factor. What's the decision factor when you start using heavy equipment to take that degree of --

Schwartz: Well, we do realize that at some point we're going to have to do something. In the latest briefing, we were discussing those plans. And we hope to be in a position to start working on the roof deck that had collapsed -- in other words, just the one piece that's on top of that whole collapsed area. We hope to begin working on that tomorrow morning -- no promises, but that's where -- that's our benchmark. That's what we're shooting for. That's our goal.

And we are working right now on using a piece of what I would certainly refer to as a relatively sophisticated piece of equipment -- there's not a lot of them around; this one's coming from Baltimore -- that will assist us in being able to remove that roof deck in a very precise manner. So I would say that with the technology that the equipment afforded, as well as constant assessment that will be made by the crews out there, the very experienced USAR rescue teams, I think, will make the most prudent judgments possible to try and open that area up.

Our plan is, if we get that roof deck off, we believe that we'll open that area up enough to see more and know where to go next.

Quigley: Tom?

Q: Mr. Irby, I realize you're not a forensic expert, but I'm wondering if your analysis of the impact area of the building can help

  • be at all helpful in terms of figuring out more about the circumstances of the collision itself, you know, maybe the speed of the aircraft as it hit, the angle, whether -- you know, how it hit and so forth.

Irby: Well, I think that would be a question for others. My area is more towards the normal operation of the building.

Quigley: Pauline?

Q: Can you say what was the condition of the black boxes when you found them?

Schwartz: I'm not in a position to say. Again, I'd refer that question to the FBI. I think they're more -- they're better off answering that question, because it is such a significant piece of evidence.

Q: Mr. Irby, when the clean-up effort is completed, about how much of the building will be usable for office workers?

Irby: Well, I think we'll need some more engineering analysis before we can make that -- turn the answer into a number. Right now we're at about two-thirds, and we expect to be expanding that. But the engineers are going to have to work with us on that and --

Q: They're studying the structural safety of the parts that appear to be intact?

Irby: Pardon?

Q: They're studying the structure, the parts that appear to be intact?

Irby: That's correct. That will take some time to look at the potential settling and those kinds of things. And it's, again, an area where we're all cooperating together and we're all working at the priorities of what has to come first. And reoccupying is going to be the last thing in line, so there are a lot of other higher priorities.

Quigley: Tony?

Q: Mr. Irby, can you quantify what two-thirds of the building means for the lay audience? I mean, this building is X number of acres -- I forget what X is -- but just bond it a little bit; 20 acres were taken out, but 200 acres of the Pentagon are operating, functional.

Irby: That would be a little hard to do up here.

Q: Miles of corridor, maybe? (Laughter.)

Irby: Yeah.

Q: There's 17 miles of corridor. Should we assume that 10, 12 miles are functional?

(Cross talk; laughter.)

Q: Do you want to think about it and get back to us?

Irby: Yeah. We're -- you could say about 3 million square feet are operational now.

Q: Out of how many square feet? That's the -- you know, the baseline.

Irby: Yeah -- the math.

Q: Can I ask, what offices occupied the damaged area? Do you have a feel for that now, for what --

Irby: Most of the damaged area was newly occupied space from the Pentagon renovation. And I think if you look at the casualties it will give you an idea there the spaces that were hit the hardest; the services that had the most casualties were occupying those areas. But I have not had an opportunity to look at that because I've been focusing on what's left, the positive side of it rather than the negative side of it. And we split up the jobs, and this is my role. Others can handle that better.

Quigley: Mark?

Q: This is for the chief. The initial estimate of the Arlington Fire Department of the number of victims was somewhere around 800, I believe.

That since went down significantly as the list begins coming out. Are you fairly confident -- first of all, can you talk a little bit about why -- what led you to that initial estimate of 800? And are you now confident that it is much lower?

Schwartz: I think we are confident that it's much lower, but obviously I don't have any specifics at this point. I think the only thing that led to that was very early on in this incident -- you know, one of the important things for us is to get sort of a handle on the magnitude of what we're dealing with; where we have to apply resources -- you know, what kind of resources are going to be needed to deal effectively with the incident. So, I believe we probably got some information early on that that would be a reasonable number of people that would have been occupying that space were it fully occupied, so it was the number that we were going with.

Q: I'm sorry to belabor, but you said a moment ago that while you can't give a precise estimate on how much it's going to cost to repair, it's certainly going to be more than in the tens of millions of dollars. Can you, in a ballpark way, characterize where you think it's going to end up -- a billion, several hundred million?

Irby: Well, I think it'll be less than a billion, but certainly more than a hundred million by quite a bit.

Q: Mr. Irby, could you tell us what it cost to renovate that wedge of the Pentagon and what the budgeted amounts are for each of the other wedges?

Irby: Again, I'm operation and maintenance. Lee Evey would be a better one to answer that for you. He's the director of the -- or the program manager of the Pentagon reservation.

Quigley: Renovation.

Pam?

Q: For Mr. Irby, first, and then Chief. Do you have a sense of how long it will take to recover the building to what it once was? Is this a one-year effort, a multi-year effort, a decade-long effort?

Irby: I think it'll be a multi-year effort. I've been working with Lee Evey on that, and they're developing those plans now. It'll take more than a year, but certainly not a decade. Again, a lot of that depends upon congressional funding. We certainly don't have the funds to deal with this, and it would take legislation to make that available to us. But I would think -- a couple of years are some of the numbers that I've seen thrown around.

Q: Can I ask the chief a question please? I don't mean to be churlish, but in New York they are getting accurate body counts. Can you tell us the reason why we're not getting them? Because what's ending up happening is that at various times we're able to go out and talk to different people and we're getting different estimates, and I think that's concerning to folks. So we would like an official number.

Schwartz: And I can certainly appreciate the desire to know.

What I have to tell you, though, is that as we operate the incident command system with this incident, we do it jointly with other agencies, including the FBI. And their desire at this point is not to release that information, and I'm going to maintain that relationship and that confidence with them.

Quigley: David?

Q: In terms of the collapsed area, in green up there, can you give us any rough measurements as to how big that is? How big is the hole, in other words?

Irby: I don't have that.

Q: I had counted the windows out there, and it was seven windows wide. Do you know how long a span that is?

Irby: Seventy-five to a hundred feet. But, you know, what's collapsed now is not the final situation. There are areas that are so weakened that they'll have to be torn down. So that will really grow.

Q: Just along that line, can you estimate how much more those -- the collapsed area that's in green here, when you take out everything you have to take out and rebuild this building, is that going to be doubled in terms of what's going to have to be replaced, or less?

Irby: Again, that's a question for the engineers to decide. And they couldn't tell you now because they need to conduct some studies to get that information.

Quigley: Tom?

Q: Mr. Irby, in terms of what you said before, that you've developed such respect for this building by looking at the way that it reacted to this trauma, can you elaborate on that a little bit? I mean, are there any particular construction features that, you know, proved to be really ingenious?

Irby: Well, reinforced concrete is one thing that helped with our structural stability. We also had some reinforcing added during the renovation that helped with the stability. If you notice, the windows in the renovated areas did not pop out the way windows in other areas did. The mechanical and electrical systems have a redundancy built into them as far as how they are fed, which allows us the flexibility to operate in two directions, serve them in two directions in most cases. So that's just allowed us to -- when we can't go one way, we go another.

Quigley: Vince?

Q: Was this -- I mean, I know the building was built during wartime. Was the potential for aerial bombardment thought of during the construction? And in the renovation portion, was thought of -- that had been put together after Timothy McVeigh's bombing, had the possibility of terrorism been taken into account in that reinforcement you spoke of?

Irby: I think the reinforcing was put in because of the potential for terrorist attack. It was to shore up an area of concern where we had a weakness that we corrected. But as far as envisioning a problem like this, I think I would leave it to others to speculate on whether or not the designers imagined this.

But as operators, we like to have the flexibility to feed from multiple directions so that equipment can be taken out of service for repair or replacement, or what have you. And that works to help you in a situation like this as well, where things have been damaged. So working in partnership with the Pentagon Renovation Office, we advocated the same kind of redundancy in the renovated building that we had in the original building.

Quigley: Barbara?

Q: Chief, can you tell us anything about how hard it was to get to the black boxes? I mean, it was our understanding that was in a pretty destroyed part of the building.

Schwartz: It certainly was in a fairly destroyed area of the building, which to a large degree accounts for the couple of days it took, I guess, to retrieve them, because the very methodical way that the USAR teams work through the building, you know, from the side that you see on all the pictures with the slide tilting down, that's the side we're working from, working towards the back. You know, all of their efforts are extremely methodical, keeping safety in mind and, as I keep emphasizing, ensuring the structural stability. So I think the whole nature of moving through all of the debris and all of that collapsed area just is what caused us to take so long. But, you know, I think that just how they've gone about their job is what led to how long it took.

Q: Have they been able to tell you, when they got to that part, whether or not there were any, you know, recognizable elements that an aircraft itself had crashed into the building, or is it all pretty much vaporized? Are there are any -- is there a tail, is there a wing, is there anything there?

Schwartz: I certainly would not use the term "vaporized," but there's not a lot of the aircraft that is recognizable at all.

Quigley: Dale?

Q: Just to get back to Mr. Irby for a minute. I hate to phrase it this way, but based on what you said a minute ago, is it fair to say that the building caught something of a break by the fact that it was hit in one of the renovated areas as opposed to one of the other wings that has not yet been worked on?

Irby: Yes, I think it's safe to say that we did survive it better because of the features that were added as part of the renovation.

If I can express the answer to a question that I didn't give you an answer to on the square footage that's operable, if we looked at the gross square footage of the building, it's around 6 million square feet. So the two-thirds would apply to 4 million square feet, which includes the offices and the corridors and those kinds of areas.

Q: Is that about as good as it's going to get, two-thirds functional? Or do you see may incremental --

Irby: No, no, no. We will expand that as time goes on and as the various groups, working together, complete their function and turn the building over to us and we can assure that it is safe and operable. It will take us a little longer because systems have been damaged and we don't know the extent of that damage, so we can't tell exactly how long it will take to repair.

Quigley: Thank you, gentlemen, very much.