THE MAGAZINE

The Mark Center Makes Its Mark

By Matthew Harwood

This will matter even more in the Pentagon, where Nagel is bringing PMP next. Beginning in October, the PFPA’s integrator began upgrading the Pentagon’s more than 5,000 card readers and 2,000 physical access control systems. “The card readers are multi-technology and provide a transitional solution, both magstripe and contactless simultaneously, so PFPA can accommodate a smooth transition from their current building badges to use of the CAC,” says Nagel.

Getting identity management and verification right is a necessity for PFPA, especially at the Pentagon. “How do we better vet employees that are coming into the building?” asks PFPA Director Steven Calvery. “It’s especially acute here at DoD because of what happened at Fort Hood.”

The Mark Center, fortuitously, will give PFPA the ability to answer that question. “The Mark Center has given us the opportunity to deploy some of the technology on a smaller scale and put it in real-life operations so we can deploy it here at the Pentagon,” he says, noting that the Pentagon has nearly four times as many employees as the Mark Center.

Blast Resistance

A major concern, as mentioned, is the threat of a large truck bomb being used to demolish the building and kill and injure a large percentage of its tenants.

In early September, TIME Magazine obtained an internal Pentagon blast study of the Mark Center using hypothetical payloads derived from past terrorist attacks, including the 1983 Beirut, 1995 Oklahoma City, 1996 Khobar Towers, and 1998 Nairobi truck bomb attacks. Its analysis was frightening.

“Several of the studies show the Mark Center would be essentially wiped out,” TIME’s Mark Benjamin reported. “Some scenarios show almost the entire 6,400-worker facility bathed in red, indicating areas with: ‘Many serious injuries and many fatalities in outer offices. Wall and window debris in these areas will be thrown toward interiors and will cause moderate to severe injuries with potential fatalities in inner offices.’”

Whistleblowers and watchdogs have long said the Mark Center was a mistake and couldn’t withstand previous blast payloads delivered in other successful attacks on military and government buildings. As the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in April before the facility opened, “Military explosives experts have told POGO that an eighteen-wheeler full of ammonium nitrate or other military grade explosive could easily be detonated in close proximity to the proposed building, killing hundreds to thousands of DoD and contractor support employees.”

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