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Context of 'September 7-8, 2001: High Level Air Force Discussions Call for Dismantling NORAD’s Alert Sites'

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During this period, apparently, there are only 14 fighter planes on active alert to defend the continental United States (and six more defending Canada and Alaska). [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] However, in the months before 9/11, rather than increase the number, the Pentagon is planning to reduce the number still further. Just after 9/11, the Los Angeles Times will report, “While defense officials say a decision had not yet been made, a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military.” By comparison, in the Cold War atmosphere of the 1950s, the US had thousands of fighters on alert throughout the US. [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2001] In fact, there will be high level military discussions as late as September 8, 2001, where the option of eliminating the bases altogether is considered (see September 7-8, 2001). As late as 1998, there were 175 fighters on alert status. [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Also during this time, FAA officials try to dispense with “primary” radars altogether, so that if a plane were to turn its transponder off, no radar could see it. NORAD rejects the proposal [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The future of “continental air sovereignty” over America is in doubt. Discussions at the Air Force’s highest levels call for the dismantling of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US and its command and control structure. [Filson, 2003, pp. 149] Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region, will later add that “the secretary of the Air Force, James G. Roche, stated that he and the then chief of staff of the Air Force, General John Jumper, had decided to withdraw funding for air defense, and they had made that decision on September 7, 2001.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 289] Earlier in the summer of 2001, “a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military” (see Summer 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force, Larry Arnold, John P. Jumper, James G. Roche, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

General Lance W. Lord.General Lance W. Lord. [Source: Air Force Space Command]General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and many other senior Air Force officials learn about the attacks on the World Trade Center during a regular staff meeting, but, instead of responding to them, initially continue their meeting. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136; 9News, 8/30/2011] Jumper only became Air Force chief of staff five days ago, on September 6, and this is his first official duty day. [Air Force Magazine, 10/2001; Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002] The meeting, which he is chairing, is taking place in the Air Force Council conference room on the mezzanine level of the Pentagon basement. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136]
Dozens of Senior Officers Are Attending Meeting - Jumper’s meeting is attended by around 40 experienced Air Force officers. [9News, 8/30/2011] These include Lieutenant General Lance Lord, assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force; Lee-Volker Cox, executive officer to the assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force; Brigadier General Paul Kimmel, chief operating officer of the Air National Guard; Colonel Jack Egginton, executive officer to the Air Force chief of staff; Tim Green, assistant executive to the Air Force chief of staff; Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Powell, deputy chief of the secretary of the Air Force’s action group; and Lieutenant General Paul Carlton Jr., surgeon general of the Air Force. [Murphy, 2002, pp. 216; Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002; Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002; Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file; KSBY 6, 9/10/2011; Airman, 9/15/2011] It is “the meeting that had all the Air Force senior staff who are in the Pentagon,” Cox will later comment. [KEYT NewsChannel 3, 9/11/2012]
Briefing Is about Terrorism - The regular meeting, referred to as the “Ready Brief,” is where the highest levels of the military are updated on worldwide issues. [9News, 8/30/2011] Today’s meeting, as is always the case on the second Tuesday of the month, is about “black world activities”—subjects that are not normally in the news. “Ironically,” the Daytona Beach News-Journal will report, “this day’s briefing is on anti- and counterterrorism.” On the presentation screen, according to the News-Journal, “faces of terrorists from around the world are being shown and terrorist incidents described.” [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file]
Screen Shows TV Coverage of First Attack - About halfway through the meeting, at around 9:00 a.m., Powell suddenly stops the briefing and announces that an airplane has hit one of the WTC towers. He turns on the television news coverage of the incident and the large screen in the conference room shows the burning North Tower. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136; 9News, 8/30/2011; Airman, 9/15/2011] “I briefed the boss [i.e. Jumper] that something was up in New York and we piped the news feed into the conference room,” Egginton will recall. [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003] “At first we thought it was part of the briefing,” Kimmel will comment, adding, “The briefers stopped talking and there was silence in the room.” [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file] According to Jumper, those in the meeting are immediately suspicious about the cause of the crash. “The news commentator was talking about how the airplane had hit the building and it looked like somebody had been off course going into La Guardia [Airport],” he will recall. “Of course, there was a conference table full of airmen who looked at that dark blue sky on CNN, then looked at each other, and we knew right away that it wasn’t a navigation mistake. It was something much more profound than that.” [Airman, 9/15/2011]
Meeting Attendees See Live Coverage of Second Crash - Soon after they start watching the TV news coverage, those in the meeting see the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file] “[W]e started watching a live feed and probably within 30 seconds, the second tower got hit,” Green will recall. [Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002] According to Cox, “[T]he room just became totally silent.” [KEYT NewsChannel 3, 9/11/2012] Everyone there is now “quite certain what was going on,” Jumper will say. [Airman, 9/15/2011] According to Green, they all quickly respond after seeing Flight 175 crashing. “Everyone in the room knew instantly that we were at war,” he will say. “It’s amazing to watch people in that situation; they immediately shift gears from whatever they were doing to do what needed to be done.” [Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002] Lord will say that after seeing the second crash, those in the conference room “all sat there in stunned disbelief for a few seconds, then we quickly went back to our offices.” [Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002]
Attendees Watch Coverage for Eight Minutes Then Resume Meeting - But according to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, those in the conference room watch the TV news coverage for about eight minutes and then Jumper resumes the meeting. He concludes it “quickly.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136] He announces: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think the meeting is adjourned. We have some work to do.” According to the News-Journal, the meeting is adjourned at 9:20 a.m., 17 minutes after those attending it witnessed the second crash at the WTC. [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file]
Attendees Return to Their Offices - Those who are in the meeting will then head upstairs to their offices. [Airman, 9/15/2011] Lord will recall that on the way, they hear there is another suspicious plane heading toward Washington, DC. [Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002] Jumper, accompanied by Egginton, will head to the office of Secretary of the Air Force James Roche and subsequently go with Roche to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Airman, 9/15/2011]

Entity Tags: Jack B. Egginton, Lee-Volker Cox, Paul Carlton, US Department of the Air Force, Pierre Powell, Paul Kimmel, Tim Green, John P. Jumper, Lance Lord

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James Roche.James Roche. [Source: United States Air Force]General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, head to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon, where they will assist the Air Force’s response to the terrorist attacks. [CNN, 10/10/2001; Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Roche learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center while he was holding a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress in his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. He then arranged for the members of Congress to return to their offices, but stayed in his own office (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Jumper learned about the attacks during a staff meeting he was chairing, but initially continued the meeting (see (9:00 a.m.-9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136] He adjourned it at 9:20 a.m., according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file] He then headed up to Roche’s office. [Airman, 9/15/2011]
Roche and Jumper Possibly Unaware of Plane Approaching Washington - In the office now with Roche and Jumper are Colonel Philip Breedlove, Roche’s senior military assistant, and Colonel Jack Egginton, executive officer to the Air Force chief of staff. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] It is unclear whether the men in Roche’s office realized a suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington, DC, before the Pentagon was hit, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant General Lance Lord, assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, will later say that those who attended Jumper’s staff meeting “heard there was another plane inbound to Washington” as they were heading to their offices after the meeting. [Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002] And Egginton will say that a few minutes before the Pentagon was hit, “We received word that another aircraft was headed toward Washington.” [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003] But according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Jumper’s staff had “no idea that they [i.e. the Pentagon] would be the next target for terrorists.” [Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002]
Roche and Jumper Possibly Initially Unaware that the Pentagon Had Been Attacked - Breedlove will recall that shortly before the Pentagon was hit, while Roche and Jumper had their backs to the window, he and Egginton “saw an airplane go by really close to the building.” People who work at the Pentagon or visit it regularly are used to seeing planes flying by, near the building. “But that one seemed closer than any other,” Breedlove will comment. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] However, it is unclear whether the men in Roche’s office immediately realized the Pentagon had been attacked when it was hit. The office is on the opposite side of the building to where the attack occurred and so, according to some accounts, Roche and Jumper did not feel the impact. They only realized something was wrong when they saw “people running down the halls and trying to evacuate the premises,” according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram. Roche will say that all he initially knew was that “the building was putting out the alert that something had gone wrong.” “It was amazing, from inside the building, how little we knew about what actually went on,” Tim Green, assistant executive to the Air Force chief of staff, who is with Jumper, will comment. “People outside of the building… probably knew more about what happened from the news than I did.” [CNN, 10/10/2001; Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002] Egginton and Breedlove, however, will contradict these accounts. “I felt the building shake upon impact,” Egginton will say. Breedlove will recall, “We felt a tremor in the building and then alarms start flashing.”
Roche and Jumper Taken to Operations Center - Breedlove will say that, in response to the attack on the Pentagon, he promptly arranges for Jumper and Roche to be escorted to the Air Force Operations Center, in the basement of the Pentagon’s C Ring. He will recall that he hits the “duress button” and then security officers enter Roche’s office almost immediately. “We said, ‘We need to get to the bunker; we need to get down to our operations area,’” he will say. [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Roche, though, will give a different account. He will say that his office had been “on the phone to our Operations Center” and then “we were called down,” presumably by whoever they were talking to in the Operations Center. [CNN, 10/10/2001] Roche and Jumper are escorted to the Operations Center through “smoke, alarms, and throngs of people heading for the exits,” Egginton will recall. [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003]
Roche and Jumper Learn a Plane Hit the Pentagon - In the Operations Center, members of the Air Force Crisis Action Team have already begun to assemble so as to help provide assistance to civil authorities in New York (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136] When Roche and Jumper reach the center, they will learn that the Pentagon has been hit by an aircraft (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 10/10/2001] Other Air Force officials, including Lord, also head to the Operations Center after the Pentagon is hit. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2003]

Entity Tags: John P. Jumper, Lance Lord, Philip M. Breedlove, Jack B. Egginton, James G. Roche, Tim Green

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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