Washington Army Bases Upped Security Just Before 9/11
Here is a little-known oddity, courtesy of the Complete 9/11 Timeline. In the few weeks prior to 9/11, members of the public were suddenly limited in their access to US Army bases in the Washington, DC area, after having been able to freely access them for decades. These bases included Fort Meade, which is home to the National Security Agency. The new measures meant commanders knew who was entering their installations 24 hours a day and gave them "the capability to adjust security measures immediately if required." The change was "reportedly part of a nationwide security clampdown due to concerns about terrorism."
August 15, 2001: Army to Limit Public Access to Bases Around Washington
The US Army is preparing to severely restrict public access to its posts in the Washington, DC area. For decades, visitors have been able to enter these bases freely. But now, as a probably permanent change, barriers will be erected across many roads leading into them, funneling traffic to a few roads staffed by guards. Drivers entering without proper registration will be sent to a visitor's center to obtain a guest pass. [Washington Post, 8/15/2001] The new measures will mean commanders know who is entering their installations 24 hours a day, and give them the capability to adjust security measures immediately if required. [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001] The changes will occur at all installations belonging to the Military District of Washington (MDW). [MDW News Service, 7/2001] These include forts Hamilton, Meade, Belvoir, Ritchie, Myer, and McNair. Several of these bases will be reported as having implemented the changes in the following weeks, prior to September 11 (see August 20, 2001)(see September 4, 2001)(see September 5, 2001). Whether the changes take place at the other MDW installations prior to 9/11 is unknown. Part of MDW's stated mission is to "respond to crisis, disaster or security requirements in the National Capital Region through implementation of various contingency plans." [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 11/28/2001] It will therefore be much involved with the rescue and recovery efforts following the 9/11 Pentagon attack. [Army, 10/2004] The restriction of access to MDW posts stems from guidance from Army leadership and specifically from MDW Commander Maj. Gen. James Jackson. [MDW News Service, 7/2001] It is reportedly part of a nationwide security clampdown due to concerns about terrorism, following such attacks as the Oklahoma City bombing and the attack on the USS Cole. [Washington Post, 8/15/2001]
August 20, 2001: Fort Meade Increases Base Security
Fort Meade, a US Army installation located between Baltimore and Washington, DC, begins strict new entrance restrictions. For decades, visitors such as churchgoers and parents taking their children to schools on the base have been able to enter the post freely. But the Army is now closing seven access points, with only four points remaining open full time and four others part time. The restrictions, part of a security crackdown ordered by Army leaders concerned about terrorism, will require visitors to stop at a visitor's center and obtain a day pass allowing them to enter and travel on the base. [Washington Post, 8/15/2001; Laurel Leader, 8/23/2001; Laurel Leader, 8/23/2001] Fort Meade is home to about 10,000 military personnel and 25,000 civilian employees. Its major tenant units include the National Security Agency (NSA), the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), and the US Air Force's 694th Intelligence Group. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/9/2002] All other installations in the Military District of Washington are currently implementing similar access restrictions (see August 15, 2001). [MDW News Service, 7/2001]
September 4, 2001: Army Restricts Access to Fort Belvoir
The US Army sharply restricts public access to Fort Belvoir, one of its installations about 10 miles south of the Pentagon. After being an open post for over 25 years, Belvoir has now erected barriers across many of the roads leading into it, leaving only six guarded gates as points of entry and exit. Twenty access points are being permanently closed. Visitors must now register their vehicles at a visitor's center or get a day pass to enter the base. [MDW News Service, 7/2001; Washington Post, 8/15/2001] The access restrictions will allow commanders to know who is entering the base 24 hours a day and adjust security measures immediately if needed. [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001] All other Military District of Washington (MDW) installations are implementing similar changes, due to Army concerns about terrorism (see August 15, 2001). Fort Belvoir has about 20,000 workers and is home to many different agencies, including the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), plus the headquarters of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Technical Information Service. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; Washington Post, 8/15/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/21/2001] Occupying over 500 acres at Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield. The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is MDW's aviation-support unit, is stationed at Davison. This operates UH1 "Huey" and UH60 Black Hawk helicopters in support of training and "contingencies" for various MDW units. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/5/2002] The Washington Post has reported, "Fort Belvoir will be holding exercises the next two Tuesdays to test the changes" in access to the base. [Washington Post, 8/15/2001] This will therefore include September 11 (a Tuesday). Other reports will confirm an antiterrorism exercise being conducted at Belvoir on 9/11 (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001).
September 5, 2001: US Army Bases Implement 'Full Access Control'
Fort Myer and Fort Lesley J. McNair, both within two miles of the Pentagon, implement "full access control," which means they increase the level of military police surveillance of those who enter them. Visitors are now required to register and sign in at a visitor center, and obtain a temporary pass. The measures, part of a security crackdown due to concerns about terrorism, will allow commanders to know who is entering their installations 24 hours a day and adjust their security measures immediately as needed. [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001; Washington Post, 8/15/2001] All other Army posts in the Washington, DC area are currently implementing similar access restrictions (see August 15, 2001).
(All of these entries are taken from the timeline's Military Exercises Up to 9/11 page.)