Report on Mark Center vulnerability ‘frightening’

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Northern Virginia lawmakers are expressing concern over a news report citing an internal Pentagon study that says a truck bomb could essentially wipe out Alexandria’s Mark Center — a scenario the city’s mayor describes as “frightening.”

An article posted on the Time magazine website Tuesday said the magazine had obtained a report that included blast studies laying out the hypothetical impact a truck bomb would have on the site, where thousands of Department of Defense employees are relocating as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan.

The article said the report examined potential impacts of truck bombs similar in size to high-profile terrorist attacks. Several models showed that the building would essentially be wiped out, the magazine reported.

“It’s interesting - and frightening,” Alexandria Mayor William D. “Bill” Euille said Wednesday of the information in the article, though he added that he still was not sure about the validity of it.

Mr. Euille said that it was a matter he would be discussing with his senior staff and council colleagues to develop a response.

“What are the facts?” he asked. “We’ve been told early on that this facility was heavily secure … so my concern [is] both for the safety and security for employees, as well as neighbors and citizens.”

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, has long opposed the move to the Mark Center, mostly because of the expected impact on traffic as workers begin to trickle into the site. He secured language in the 2012 House defense authorization bill allowing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to delay for up to a year personnel moving into some BRAC sites, and he sponsored an amendment that caps the parking spaces to be used at the site at 1,000 until ramp modifications and intersection improvements are completed.

“The congressman has been very concerned about many aspects of this whole Mark Center debacle, the security situation being another example of how poor planning and a lack of coordination with all the stakeholders has resulted in a less than optimal situation for those working and living at and near the site,” said Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes.

State Delegate Charniele Herring, Alexandria Democrat, said the magazine report referenced information “that’s certainly not available to me.”

“We need to make sure the facility’s safe for the community, and for the workers on the grounds of the Mark Center,” she said.

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers was quoted in the article as saying that the protection levels are in accordance with those at the Pentagon, but that officials could not discuss specifics about security.

The government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) sent a letter to Mr. Gates in April expressing concern about the vulnerability of the Mark Center to truck bombs - a letter that has gone unanswered.

“I cannot explain how this decision was made,” Peter Stockman, a senior investigator for POGO, said Wednesday. “These bombers are not stupid - they know how to do this stuff.”

The first wave of employees has already begun to trickle into the facility, located off Interstate 395 in Alexandria. According to Defense Department plans, 2,300 employees are scheduled to move into the building by Sept. 15, with an additional 2,600 employees scheduled to move in by the end of the year.

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