Pentagon rebuild includes improvements

While a digital clock (top) counts down to a Sept. 11 deadline, workers are replacing more than 100,000 miles of copper and fiber cable with fiber-optic lines for an ATM network.

Olivier Douliery

Three days after Sept. 11, Rich Fitzharris rallied his troops to begin rebuilding and recabling the integrated IT backbone of the Pentagon.

Fitzharris, the IT director for Pentagon renovation, knew it would be a daunting task. The scene was nearly unreal: piles of dust and debris; smoke damage; dangling cables and wires; destroyed PCs.

But workers have made significant progress in rebuilding Wedge 1, the 1 million-square-foot section of the building struck by the hijacked airliner, and hope to complete work by the fall. And what they have learned in the process will help them as they renovate Wedge 2, which also was affected.

The Defense Department had plans to renovate the entire building and was in the midst of work on Wedge 1 when the terrorists struck.

'The biggest thing was removing all of the active electronic equipment and determining the damage,' Fitzharris said. 'We shipped a lot of equipment back to the companies and had them clean routers, switches.'

Many PCs were thrown away because of damage. Still, it could have been a lot worse, he said.

'Luckily, we did not have a lot of water damage,' Fitzharris said. Also, because Wedge 1 had just reopened in April 2001 after costly renovations, its stronger structural steel prevented it from collapsing. Several corridors in the adjoining Wedge 2 didn't have the same advantage and were destroyed.

The most extensive damage was on the fourth, fifth and sixth corridors, where Army offices were.

First, Fitzharris' team had to replace copper and fiber cabling in the portion of Wedge 1 that caved in, down to the users' desks.

'We have to do five floors by Sept. 11,' Fitzharris said.

DOD has set one year to the day of the attacks as the deadline for completing work on a major portion of Wedge 1, Fitzharris said. The entire wedge will be renovated by mid-October.

The cost of rebuilding Wedge 1, including labor, testing, new equipment and integration, will come to $59 million, he said.

The team has also begun renovating Wedge 2, with both copper and fiber cabling. One lesson from the work in Wedge 1 is that each workstation needs more electrical outlets in the walls. In Wedge 1, each desk got three outlets. For Wedge 2, that number will jump to five or seven.
'Over in Wedge 2, we are taking more fiber to the desk. We put an outlet for telephones, laser printers,' Fitzharris said. 'Now, we have something on every wall to run a cable.'

Wired for speed

Since 1942, the Pentagon has accumulated more than 100,000 miles of copper and fiber cable. Now the cable is being replaced with fiber-optic lines for a high-speed asynchronous transfer mode network that DOD expects to last another half-century, officials said.

In offices, DOD is using spinewall technology, which runs wiring through cubicle partitions. Cubicle walls will carry electrical conduits and telecommunication lines, making connections run more quickly.

The project will create the Pentagon's first integrated backbone. The hundreds of networks that run within the building had been built piecemeal.

The revamped Pentagon will house more than 25,000 people. The total project is expected to cost at least $1.1 billion and is scheduled tbe completed by 2014.

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