$1B+ Quarter Pentagon bungle makes Time Magazine

The terrorist-friendly Quarter Pentagon, the twin towers formally known as BRAC-133, has made Time Magazine. Time depicts the 6,400-worker complex as a “soft target” for truck bombers.

Jihadists or others might wipe it out if given a chance.

Since last year, the Solomon Scandals blog has been warning of the security concerns among other issues here, and I am delighted to see the national media delving deeper, as Reuters did in April with its own report.

Meanwhile Mayor William Euille of Alexandria, Virginia, is sounding a lot less boosterish than he had once been about BRAC-133—and has even alerted the White House about possible risks to the workers. Will a solution be found? Civilian buildings are near by, and, of course, BRAC-133 overlooks I-395. And with so many military bureaucrats moving into this one billion-dollar-plus monstrosity, BRAC-133 is a gift-wrapped temptation for terrorists.

Outside offices are at greatest risk, as I observed here months ago; and in the best tradition of Washington, the lower-level people will work there and the brass will work in the safer areas toward the core.

For now, citing security concerns, military officials are ducking questions from the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight about BRAC-133’s vulnerabilities. “I think it is shocking as hell,” Time quoted Peter Stockton, a POGO investigator and former congressional aide. “Depending on the size of the bomb and location of the detonation, the whole building could be brought down.”Time’s Mark Benjamin of the Washington bureau writes: “At the Mark Center…there are guarded (albeit minimal-looking) gates, but they are surprisingly close to the” military “buildings themselves, in some cases just a feet way.” He says: “Given the site’s current vulnerabilities, some Pentagon officials are befuddled as to why the Defense Department decided on that location, and why it has been left so unprotected. One antiterrorism official said he chose to speak with TIME reluctantly, only after internal warnings had been met with stony silence at the Pentagon. ‘I could not live with myself,’ if something happened at the Mark Center, the official said. He said of al-Qaeda: ‘These people are not stupid.'”

Predictably the military is talking about the inevitability of BRAC-133 and related projects and saying that adequate precautions are in place. Problem is, the Quarter Pentagon is far, far riskier than the the full Pentagon, as Time makes clear. Recently a road was moved several hundred yards farther from the real Pentagon, in line with the old military wisdom that distance is the friend of security. Does this mean that the military will pay for near-by buildings to be torn down in  Mark Center?

What if the Defense Department can’t find a satisfactory solution for BRAC-133? Perhaps one response would be to leave some less sensitive military offices in place but move out others, so that with fewer defense workers, BRAC-133 is less inviting as a target. Civilian federal offices could occupy the rest of the space if the building could be configured in ways that allowed for sufficient security. Maybe one tower for military use and the other for federal civilian use or perhaps even nongovernment use? While that wouldn’t be best for the local office rental community, shouldn’t 6,400 lives should count more than property values, local economic boosts and budget reduction?

Of course, one of the biggest questions is why the Defense Department settled on BRAC-133 in the first place when safer and/or more environmentally friendly choices were available. Were political contributions a factor? This blog may have been the first or among the first to note the donations, in a post last September. I hope that the White House and Congress will truly delve into this mess and if need be get a full-scale investigation going from the Government Accountability Office (dealing with much more than, say, the related traffic congestion)–followed, if justified, by a criminal investigation. The Washington Post still has many gifted, hardworking reporters left despite editorial cutbacks, and I’d also like to see Bob Woodward and colleagues give BRAC-133 the loving attention it deserves.

Malfeasance or not, BRAC-133 is at least misfeasance if we go by the flagrant illogic. It is also my own novel brought to life within a mile of where I live across I-395. In The Solomon Solomon Scandals, I wrote about a misbegotten, badly located federally occupied building and about the people and money behind it, as well as the media’s reluctance at times to take on some powerful business interests. Let’s hope that the latter situation doesn’t apply here.

Related: My video on BRAC-133.

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David Rothman

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