Pentagon's Wedge 1 upgrade is nearly done

Pentagon's Wedge 1 upgrade is nearly done

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

Bright light washes over neutral-colored cubicles and columns, bounces off terrazzo floors and streams into once-dark hallways.

The illumination is the first thing people notice in the renovated Wedge 1 of the Pentagon. That, and the view offered by the escalator bank with glass banisters that spirals up five floors, replacing archaic ramps.

'The common comment is, 'We just don't feel like we're in the Pentagon now,' ' said Tom Fontana, public affairs team leader for the Pentagon Renovation Program.

Wedge 1 offers a glimpse of the new Pentagon. Designed like a modern office building, it presents visitors with a stark contrast to the World War II-era building's four other wedges.


Brightly lit hallways and a bank of escalators are features of the renovations to the Pentagon's Wedge 1, which also includes a major communications upgrade.
In February 1998, contractors began the building's first modernization project. The revamped Pentagon will house more than 25,000 people in an office complex light years ahead of the old structure technologically, Fontana said.

The Defense Department plans to finish the $1.1 billion project by 2014, with Wedge 2 renovations starting either late this year or early next year.

Over the Pentagon's 59-year existence, DOD has made seven major information technology upgrades. 'Tenants just laid the new on top of the old,' Fontana said, which means cables'many of them no longer transmitting data'run above the ceiling panels, through floor conduits and inside awkward-size tubes along the hallways.

'We had to trace every one of those lines,' Fontana said.

Since 1942, the Pentagon has accumulated more than 100,000 miles of copper and fiber cable [GCN, Aug. 31, 1998, Page 88]. During the renovation, the cable is being replaced with new fiber-optic lines for a high-speed asynchronous transfer mode network that DOD expects to last for at least another half-century, Fontana said.

In individual offices, DOD will use spinewall technology, which essentially runs wiring through cubicle partitions. These cubicle walls will carry electrical conduits and telecommunication lines, making desk connections run quicker, Fontana said.

Unified backbone

This will be the Pentagon's first comprehensive, integrated backbone. Although hundreds of networks run within the confines of the building, they were built piecemeal.

'There were many people who said it couldn't be done,' said Lee Evey, Pentagon renovation program manager.

Many observers said 'that we could never shut down one-fifth of the Pentagon, move out 5,000 people, build a barrier wall, reroute all the telecommunications, remove 2,000 tons of asbestos along with lead-based paint and mercury ' and rebuild this building from the inside out, all while keeping 20,000 people performing their mission,' he said. 'We have proven that it can be done.'

Evey's comments during an open house last month drew applause and cheers from government workers and contractors.

Last month, 108 Air Force personnel became the first occupants to move into the renovated wedge. Every week until October, 100 to 200 more people will join them.

Col. Robert Kirsch, project manager of information management and telecommunications, said long-term workers will find an astonishingly different workplace.

Fifty years ago, Kirsch said, there was one telephone for every three people in the building. 'Today as you walk in, each [person] has two computers'one classified, one unclassified'and one telephone. So that has increased in the complexity,' he said.

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