War on Terrorism

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Protection Agency Keeps Pentagon Safe

By Paul Taylor
Pentagon Force Protection Agency

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2011 – It is said that a successful terrorist only has to get it right once, while successful antiterrorism and force-protection professionals must get it right all the time –- 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, without fail.

It can be a daunting task for anyone concerned about protecting themselves and their property from a terrorist attack. So imagine being responsible for protecting a 280-acre complex in the heart of one of the world’s busiest urban centers that is perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of American power and already has been the target of one of the most audacious acts of terrorism in history.

One of the organizations charged with protecting that complex -- the Pentagon Reservation -- is the Pentagon Force Protection Agency’s antiterrorism and force protection directorate. In addition to the Pentagon Reservation, the directorate also aids in protecting the more than 100 Defense Department-leased facilities in the national capital region, as well as the soon-to-open Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., which eventually will house more than 6,000 DOD workers.

According to Jim Pelkofski, director of antiterrorism and force protection for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, DOD officials consider antiterrorism force protection as an operational mission area.

“And with a mission comes an attitude: ‘I’m going to create a hard target, I’m going to be well-armed, I’m going to be visible, and I’m going to give a perennial show of force so that anybody looking from the outside-in realizes that this one’s too hard -- this is not the target for me,’” he said.

PFPA’s Pentagon police directorate ultimately bears most of the agency’s burden, he added.

“[The Pentagon police are] the muscle of this agency –- they are the hard target,” he said. “We help them with aspects of their mission; help them to build their muscle with things like the random antiterrorism measures program, force protection measures and others.”

Pelkofski’s directorate hosts monthly meetings of a threat working group made up mainly of representatives from PFPA directorates, but also including interested organizations such as Washington Headquarters Services, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Defense Intelligence Agency and others, who work together to evaluate and respond to threats in a timely manner.

“We share threat information, go over what we know, and keep the working group warm so that in the event of a crisis or incident, the players know each other,” Pelkofski explained. “They’re not looking around and asking, ‘Who are you?’”

An antiterrorism working group meets quarterly to coordinate larger resource and program issues. Pelkofski said it is not threat-driven, but rather is more about discussing antiterrorism and force-protection requirements or vulnerabilities that may require resources or work.

In addition to answering to PFPA’s chain of command, the directorate also is U.S. Northern Command’s antiterrorism and force-protection point of contact for the Pentagon and DOD-leased facilities in the national capital region.

The directorate also oversees what officials call random antiterrorism measures -- security measures that routinely change the look and type of force-protection measures. Their random nature is designed to reduce certainty about overall force protection measures, defeating surveillance attempts and making it difficult for terrorists to predict challenges they would face in an attack.

One of Pelkofski’s top priorities, he said, is updating the comprehensive antiterrorism plan for Pentagon facilities in the region.

“We’ve been working to update it for the last year,” he said. “And after we’ve reviewed and thoroughly updated it to 2011 standards, we’ll update it annually to make sure it remains current.”

Surveillance detection is a mission that recently moved into the directorate’s purview.

“Rik Kirchner and his team conduct surveillance detection for the Pentagon Reservation –- they’re looking for who’s looking -– and his program has been recognized during a Joint Staff integrated vulnerability assessment and by other outside assessors as the best they’ve seen,” Pelkofski said.

The directorate also conducts vulnerability assessments and program reviews for DOD-leased facilities. This includes not only looking for areas that can be improved, but also providing advice and guidance on how to achieve increased readiness. The plans and programs division head Rob Abramowitz said it’s a wide-ranging task.

“We’re charged with drafting, writing, revising, and coordinating the [antiterrorism and force-protection] plans and program elements for all existing DOD-leased facilities,” Abramowitz, said, noting that for newly leased or built facilities, there’s even more work to be done.

“We evaluate potential sites and, once a site is selected, generate specific requirements for things like site layout, security access, and entry control points,” he said. “We also develop concepts of operations that integrate all the [antiterrorism and force-protection] technology solutions. We build the occupant emergency plan, which is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what to do in an emergency.

“You get to a 90-percent solution when the facility is occupied,” he continued. “Then, after they’ve been in the facility a while and you know the work flow of the building, you test the plans, you evaluate all the things that you’ve conceptualized, and when it works, you sign it and you have an [antiterrorism and force protection] program.” Once the plan is complete, Abramowitz added, policy requires a comprehensive annual review.

The directorate also conducts antiterrorism and force-protection training for everyone who works in the Pentagon and DOD-leased facilities. It sounds like a lot, and it is, Pelkofski said, but he and his team are able to succeed because of the support of the rest of the PFPA team.

“It’s collaborative -- it’s teamwork,” he said. “What I saw when I got here was that the directorate is stocked with extremely knowledgeable, dedicated professionals, and I was proud to join them. That goes for [the antiterrorism and force-protection directorate], and it goes for PFPA overall.

“We have 17 different directors,” he added, and [our directorate] is integrated throughout the agency because we touch every piece of it. The dedication level in this agency approaches what I saw in the Navy while in command of my ship, and that is the highest compliment I can pay to any organization –- just totally dedicated to the mission, totally dedicated to protecting this facility.”

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