Pentagon Renovation Program Completes Historic Renovations
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2011 The Pentagon Renovation Program, which began in 1991, came full circle today as its leaders recognized contributors who spearheaded the program’s efforts to complete the 17-year reconstruction project.
After two decades of planning and designing construction for the national historic landmark, 17 organizations and dozens of individuals were recognized for their commitment to thoughtfully modernizing the national military headquarters.
William Brazis, director of the Washington Headquarters Services, set the stage for the renovations describing easy access and decaying conditions as culprits.
“Anybody, at that time, could walk right into the concourse and shop. Each day, scores of trucks backed directly, unimpeded, into the south side of the building at the loading docks between Corridors 2 and 3,” he said.
“Hundreds of buses ran directly under the building at the concourse … electrical outlets and breakers failed frequently. Localized outages were a daily event. The building was certainly not well postured for the coming of the computer age.”
He also cited poor ventilation, regular plumbing failures, insects, and asbestos as contributors to the Pentagon’s deterioration over 50-plus years of continuous use.
Brazis described a nearly catastrophic event that could have potentially crippled the headquarters.
“On August 7, 1990, as the Pentagon prepared for the start of Operation Desert Shield, a small fire broke out in the area of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said.
“In responding, a firefighter pressured a deteriorated water pipe. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water poured into this building, flooding approximately 300,000 square feet of basement space, nearly causing the Air Force and Army operations centers to shut down,” he continued.
“The rising water in the high voltage area really led us to fear of electrocution. And it would mean there would be no power to half the building right as U.S. military forces were moving into Saudi Arabia.
“The largest military deployment since the Vietnam War, and the United States’ military command center would be half operational,” said Brazis.
“Well, we’ve come a long way in 20 years, after 6.5 million square feet of renovation, arguably the largest and most complex probing of its kind ever. Today, I think it’s safe to say that we work in a complex that can again support the department’s mission in the next century.”
Michael Rhodes, the Director of Administration Management, described how immense the project has been.
“This is truly a very special day. I had the privilege of updating Secretary Gates about a month ago on the renovation trying to capture what has occurred, what has transpired,” he said.
“Quite frankly, it’s impossible to do. You just can’t get your arms around the things that have been done in this amazing period of time.”
Rhodes discussed some of the renovations and upgrades, many of which were intended to improve the health and welfare of the Pentagon’s workforce.
“It has an environment that’s better, it has a better work life, it’s safer, more flexible, more capable and it’s because of you,” he said.
“From the safety side, the sprinkler systems, blast resistant windows, the photo luminescent signage, and half corridors for quicker egress. On the capability size, the [information technology] infrastructure has been built in.”
Among the individuals recognized were Dr. Alfred Goldberg, the Pentagon’s chief historian from 1974 through 2007, Raymond Du Bois, who made important changes to security and the final configuration of the Pentagon, and Jim Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund.
Rhodes also thanked all the program’s government contract partners and tenant organizations.
The Pentagon Renovation Program also rebuilt the Pentagon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, and completed the Pentagon Memorial to honor the 184 people who lost their lives during the attack.
Before recognizing the individuals and organizations with key roles in the renovation, Rhodes closed with praise for all those involved.
“The success of this renovation is an example of what can be accomplished when you have individuals, when you have professionals, who are committed to a common cause and common focus, who are committed to excellence,” said Rhodes.
“It was all done in the context of keeping this nation’s military headquarters operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all the occupants and all the leadership of this department.”