by Jacque Zachgo and Stephen Larsen
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – When it was completed in 1943, only 16 quick months after groundbreaking, it was truly a modern marvel. The Pentagon, nerve center of the nation’s military, was the largest low-rise office building in the world.
It had been constructed of reinforced concrete mixed from 380,000 tons of sand dredged from the Potomac River. It was supported by more than 41,000 concrete piles – concrete, because with a war going on, the designers sought to use as little steel as possible. This ingenious use of concrete in the massive structure, which sat on 34 acres, making a footprint large enough to fit five Capitol buildings, saved enough steel to build an entire battleship.
Today, some 57 years later, the Pentagon is virtually a city unto itself. Every day, more than 30,000 people cross its 17 ½ miles of corridors, work in its 6.5 million gross square feet of space and occasionally glance out of its 7,754 windows.
Now, for the first time in the nearly six decades since its doors opened, the building is undergoing a massive basement-to-roof renovation. The concept plan calls for renovating the building in five separate one- million gross-square-foot "wedges," with work on the basement as a separate endeavor – similar to the way in which the building was originally constructed. This ensures mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be maintained in the remainder of the building as each wedge is taken off-line. Washington Headquarters Services, assisted by the Army’s Corps of Engineers and Communications-Electronics Command, is executing the 15-year, $1.22 billion program.
Managing the information-technology-services portion of the project – a piece with a healthy $890 million price tag – is the CECOM systems-management center’s project manager for information management and technology, with engineering support provided by CECOM’s Information Systems Engineering Command’s Pentagon engineering office.
"As headquarters of the national defense establishment and the nerve center for the Department of Defense command and control, the Pentagon needs to be maintained in superior operational condition," said COL Robert Kirsch II, CECOM SMC’s PM IM&T, in his offices by the north parking lot of the Pentagon, from which he has a bird’s-eye view of the building, both literally and figuratively. Kirsch must keep close vigil, as he is responsible for relocating the National Military Command Center and service operation centers; modernizing the telecommunications system through a total switch architecture; implementing a network systems-management center and a consolidated technical-control facility; relocating all data processing systems; and relocating the IT assets of nearly 30,000 Pentagon tenants.
Kirsch pointed out that before the renovation program began, none of the original major building systems had ever been replaced, nor had they been significantly upgraded. An extensive study, he said, revealed that electrical, plumbing, heading, ventilation and air-conditioning systems all needed to be replaced and modernized to accommodate added loads, and designed to be more efficient and flexible.
"Electrical systems were designed for a manual-typewriter office of 1943," Kirsch said. "There were patchwork upgrades over the years, but nowhere near enough to support the demands of today’s high-tech office environment." Overloaded secondary electrical circuits, he said, suffer as many as 20 localized power outages – each at least 30 minutes downtime per outage – every day in the winter, when space heaters emerge from office closets to compensate for the building’s deteriorated heating system.
Even more critical, Kirsch said, is the condition of the Pentagon’s IM and telecommunications infrastructure and systems – the highway-like grids through which the data for decision-making pulses through the National Command Authority. The current infrastructure, he said, is an accumulation of systems and networks installed in a piecemeal fashion over the five-plus decades in which the building has been open.
"From an IM and telecommunications point of view, there are myriad outdated and overworked communications systems," Kirsch said, "and an enormous number of single-user-oriented and user-unique data systems." Kirsch’s list of deficiencies went on to include: inadequate wiring systems; obsolete and congested wire closets, risers, cable pathways and protected distributed systems; poor-quality grounding systems; and limited wiring accessibility due to asbestos hazards.
"As IM requirements and technology changed throughout the years, new telecommunications systems were added in an ad hoc manner," Kirsch said, "often over existing wiring. The result is a collection of independent and largely non-interoperable systems and networks, many of which are poorly documented.
"A new infrastructure is necessary to provide a gateway for the Pentagon workforce to maintain and sustain daily operations as a command-and-control center in today’s information age," Kirsch said. He will provide that gateway via a modern, robust backbone network, which will passive massive amounts of data without the traffic jams currently commonplace in the Pentagon’s current duplicate networks.
"This backbone network will support all four levels of security over separate systems that will ultimately be collapsed down to a single common backbone network," Kirsch said.
Broadcast video capabilities will be provided via a fiber coaxial hybrid system, which will also ultimately ride the backbone. General-purpose voice for the 30,000-plus telephone subscribers will be supported by a state-of-the-art fiber based distributed telephony system. The voice, data and video architecture will provide a voice, data and video backbone that will be standards-based, interoperable with legacy and commercial networks, securable, scaleable, upgradeable and flexible.
In the big picture of the overall Pentagon renovation, Kirsch said, Wedge One, the area between Corridors 2 1/2 through 4 1/2, is currently under construction, with occupancy scheduled to begin in June. Renovation of the basement and mezzanine are complete. Work on the heating and refrigeration plant, mostly outside of the Pentagon, is underway. Renovation of Wedges Two through Five will follow.
Kirsch said PM IM&T has made considerable progress to date in modernizing the Pentagon’s IT services:
|Command center modernization and relocation. "We delivered the Air Force operations group facility to the Air Force in April 1999," said Kirsch, who will modernize and relocate all existing command and operations centers within the renovated Pentagon.|
|Total switch architecture. Underway is the general-purpose voice network modernization, part of PM IM&T’s total switch architecture, with the target of reducing the number of voice switches from 22 to eight while improving the quality of secure and non-secure voice services. Kirsch said three switches have been eliminated thus far.|
|Network and systems-management center and consolidated
technical-control facility. In April 1999, PM IM&T completed ITS
requirements for the Pentagon’s state-of-the-art network and
systems-management center, and in July 1999 completed work on the
consolidated technical-control facility. Both facilities are fully
operational and will soon transition to the Network Infrastructure Systems
Agency-Pentagon, the Pentagon operations-and-maintenance activity.
|The new network and systems-management center is a state-of-the-industry facility that automatically and proactively manages networks and associated entities. Completed in April 1999, it's part of the Pentagon's IT overhaul.|
|Finished in 1943, the Pentagon is 57 years old and has more than 30,000 people working in it as the U.S. military's nerve center.|
|Consolidated business automatic-data-processing center and C2 ADP center. PM IM&T completed relocation of the Pentagon’s primary ADP facility, with its ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted in June 1999. In May 1999, the Defense Information Systems Agency C2 ADP facility was completed, and operations were turned over to DISA at that time.|
|Relocation of individual IT assets. PM IM&T has successfully moved the IT assets of more than 7,000 Pentagon tenants into temporary "swing space" or into their permanent renovated offices. During the rest of the renovation, Kirsch said, PM IM&T will move the IT assets of 25,000 more tenants.|
"Renovation and modernization of ITS will help transform the renovated Pentagon into a modern and efficient C2 center," Kirsch said. He will settle for no less than providing the National Command Authority with the most modern ITS available anywhere.
"The biggest delta in 21st-century information-age warfare will be information superiority," Kirsch said.
The importance of the PM IM&T effort?
"Our efforts," he said as he looked out at the Pentagon from his offices, "are crucial in enabling the Pentagon to fight – and win – the information war."
Ms. Zachgo works for PM IM&T. Mr. Larsen is employed at CECOM’s SMC.
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