A few miles from the Pentagon sits the new home of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Washington Headquarters Service, which provides administrative and operational support to the four military services and the Pentagon. By mid-2012, more than 6,000 workers previously spread out across the National Capital Region (NCR) will have relocated to this 1.8-million-square-foot, twin-towered building as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan. Officially named BRAC 133, the facility is known as the Mark Center, named for the area in Alexandria, Virginia, where it resides.
The consolidation, which began in August, will allow the Pentagon to cut the expense of leasing more than 2 million square feet across the NCR while fostering work force coordination and cooperation. In addition, the consolidation makes it easier for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA), which is the DoD’s security management and police force, to protect the DoD’s employees and contractors from threats like terrorism.
In August and September, I traveled to the Mark Center to meet with Craig Girard, the PFPA project liaison for force protection at the complex, to learn why, despite some criticisms about its location, the Mark Center is considered the new model for government facility security.
The PFPA sees two types of events as most important to defend against: a Fort Hood-style insider threat and an Oklahoma City-style bombing. To do that, the PFPA has blanketed the facility with multiple and redundant security layers using best- of -breed technology. But the decision to build the facility in a congested part of Northern Virginia next to a major interstate highway has raised concerns. Aside from traffic issues, some security experts and watchdog groups say that the facility is vulnerable to an Oklahoma City-style attack in which a truck filled with explosives is parked next to the building. As Girard showed me around, he explained why the PFPA believed it had adequately countered that and other threats.