Transformed Pentagon Security Expects the Unexpected
By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2004 When John Jester addresses military and civilian law enforcement agencies throughout the country, he offers two key pieces of advice: first, don't think it can't happen on your watch, and second, think about the unexpected.
It was a day and an event that forever transformed the way he thinks about security. It also was a day and an event that helped him transform the present- day security procedures now in place at the Pentagon.
"Who would have dreamed that terrorists would have used an airliner full of passengers as a bomb and crash it into a building?" Jester reflected during a recent interview. "It causes you to look at what you do every day and how you do it. And you quickly see that you have to be prepared every day to handle a terrorist incident at the next moment."
Jester said his office was concerned with terrorism for quite some time, but had not considered the full range of possible threats that became evident in the days and weeks following Sept. 11, such as the anthrax attacks.
"We had to ask ourselves, 'Does the Pentagon have the right amount of security in terms of the 9/11 world?' And the answer was no, we needed to take significant additional steps," Jester said.
He said his office then moved forward to create four specific directorates to deal with the full range of possible terrorist threats: a police directorate; a chemical/biological/radiological directorate; an anti-terrorism/force protection directorate; and a security services directorate. These now fall under what in May 2002 became the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
Perhaps the most visible change to Pentagon employees and visitors is the beefing up of the police directorate, which had been part of the Defense Protective Service. Indeed, in the past year alone, more than 200 new officers have been added to the force. And when all hiring is done, more than 500 uniformed officers will be protecting not only the building itself, but also the surrounding roadways. In addition, a large contracted force now handles such duties as installing alarm systems and monitoring other buildings within the Pentagon's borders.
Another obvious sign of the increased police presence and security centers on the Pentagon's Metro Entrance Facility. Opened on Nov. 21, 2002, the new facility moved the previous rail platform farther away from the Pentagon, which now allows police to screen employees and visitors well before they enter the building. Closed circuit television monitoring and emergency call stations were also added.
As for the other three directorates, Jester said that although their presence is not so visible as the police directorate, their missions are just as valuable.
For example, the chemical/biological/radiological directorate, using sophisticated monitoring devices in and around the Pentagon, provides 24-7 protection against those types of threats. The directorate also includes a response team trained to handle any type of chemical, biological or radiological attack. And those in the police directorate have been trained to assist.
"We also took this training down to all the employees in the building by providing them with escape masks and instruction on how to use them," Jester pointed out. The masks are designed to provide employees with enough protection to allow them to escape the building or affected area of the building and relocate to a safer environment.
Jester said the anti-terrorism/force protection directorate is responsible for assessing all buildings on the Pentagon grounds on a set schedule and determining security requirements. A team within the directorate develops all emergency plans and procedures for the buildings. They also provide mandatory anti-terrorism training to those traveling overseas.
Another part of the directorate deals with threat assessment.
"They're going out and looking at what the threats are through various contacts in the intelligence and law enforcement communities," Jester said. "Then they pass the information on to our staffs so we can make the right preparations."
Jester said the security services directorate provides a wide variety of services, handling everything from issuing building passes, to parking permits to physical security systems and card access systems. The directorate also is responsible for security cameras, intrusion detection systems and information security.
While the creation and integration of these directorates was necessary and has greatly improved security, the chief said he is keenly aware of the reactions from employees and the general public and tries to strike a delicate balance.
"I want the building to look secure, because I don't want to present an inviting target," he said. "At the same time, I don't want it to look like a fortress, but I want the people who work here every day to feel secure. So it's important that security is visible. Some things they public can't see, and we don't want them to, but it helps when they see they're protected."
So do all these improvements in the Pentagon's security mean that the Pentagon Force Protection Agency has returned to a state of normalcy since Sept. 11? The chief says the answer is both yes and no.
"Things have somewhat slowed down since Sept. 11," he said, "but it's like a new normal, and that new normal is we're much more leaning forward every day, ready to spring into action to deal with an event."
Jester said he starts every day with an operations briefing about what events are happening, what dignitaries are visiting, special ceremonies and events, and the available assets. Even which way the wind is blowing is discussed in case of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.
"We're much more operations focused and learning forward," he said.
Part of the "leaning forward" has meant more practical exercises with Arlington County, Va., police and fire departments, such as Gallant Fox, a large-scale chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear training exercise conducted at the Pentagon last July.
"Now we have a training exercise every year, Jester said. "Not just one event, but a series of training events culminating with a major field exercise. We've always had a good relationship (with Arlington police and fire departments) prior to 9/11, but now we're joined at the hip and communicate daily."
Last July also saw the addition of the Pentagon's first motorcycle unit, which is now integrated with the police directorate. The motorcycles add additional mobility for the force, allowing them to move in and out of traffic easier, especially during peak commuting hours, when the Metro area and roads surrounding the Pentagon are severely congested.
Jester said a bicycle unit is being developed for the near future, which will provide another dimension of mobility.
"It was an initiative we were working on just prior to Sept. 11, and we just had to put it aside to concentrate on the more important needs at the time," he said.
Even with all these measures in place, Jester said his biggest concern usually is the fact that he's protecting a building that contains roughly 23,000 people on any given day.
"The big task is moving people if there's a problem," he said. "It's kind of like herding cats sometimes. But we have better ways of communicating with people now, and a force that can move people in the right direction."