Police officers assigned to PSU cover protection for special events on the Pentagon Reservation, like the dedication of the 9/11 memorial. The officers also provide residence security in hotels while traveling with high-risk personnel both inside and outside of the United States.
The Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear, Directorate (CBRN) guards the Pentagon and other nearby DOD facilities against possible attacks, maintaining timely threat intelligence. CBRN also monitors the environment at the Pentagon and DOD installations to make sure such hazards are not present. CBRN personnel get the call when a suspicious item is found, bomb experts (often with dogs from the Police Canine Division) are sent to examine and sometimes to destroy the item.
All Pentagon mail and deliveries are checked by CBRN at the Remote Delivery Facility. Multiple technologies are used to screen incoming mail and packages, including all overnight deliveries for possible hazards. Every day, the CBRN screens an average of 3,900 pieces of cargo that includes USPS mail, packages, and parcels as well as concessionaire items, such as food and flowers. Approximately 800,000 pieces of mail and 75,000 commercial parcels are screened annually.
In addition to checking incoming material, PFPA is responsible for destroying classified materials. Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the documents, files, and illustrations in use at the Pentagon are classified in nature. Disposing of materials no longer in use or otherwise redundant to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands is a critical task.
Just as critical is coordinating the monitoring and security functions of various PFPA components in real time. That responsibility falls to PFPA’s Integrated Emergency Operations Center (IEOC), the locus of agency awareness and coordination at any time of day, 24/7.
In 2011, Integrated Emergency Operations Center assistant supervisor Patrick Meister offered insight into some of the behind-the-scenes action at the IEOC.
“We have cameras throughout the Pentagon, so any time an event happens on the reservation, I can record it for evidence, or monitor it for officer safety, or ask for backup,” he said. The IEOC also monitors emergency management communications for the Washington area and can use that system to reach out to the 200 emergency response agencies in the region.
“We also monitor [Federal Aviation Administration] communications, so we can listen to aircraft that are coming our way,” he added. “These are all capabilities we didn’t have on 9/11.”
The IEOC watch team includes a section from PFPA’s CBRN directorate. CBRN has a variety of chemical, biological, and radiological sensors internally and externally on the reservation (known as the SENTRY Warning & Decision Support System). If any of these is triggered, an alert will be actuated on IOEC monitors. The team will then follow a set of protocols for notifying PFPA/Pentagon command and control leadership.
The center also monitors the vast array of physical alarms in Defense Department-leased facilities throughout the National Capital Region, a task that significantly increases its workload.
A quarterly exercise gathers all key PFPA directorates and offices around a table to walk through a scenario and discuss how they would respond to given situations. The scenarios examined and the discussion they generate can reveal gaps in antiterrorism awareness, force protection, and planning.
Exercises, including large-scale casualty event simulations, are ongoing at the Pentagon throughout the year. These are often visible from the roads around the Pentagon Reservation. That visibility is a reminder that PFPA never takes a day off and that its vigilance is a central piece of the work behind the welcome to the Pentagon. There’s one more little-known but highly symbolic element of the agency’s work.
Flying The Flag
Ordinary (and extraordinary) Americans can request that an American flag of their own possession may be flown over the Pentagon. The request may be made to fly the flag on a certain date to honor a retirement, birthday, or other significant event. PFPA makes it possible and is the agent through which such a request can be made. Visit www.pfpa.mil/services/flagpnt.html
After flying, the flag is returned to the individual(s) who sent it. It is perhaps the ultimate symbolic privilege given to all Americans by the men and women protecting those who protect the nation.