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(11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secretary of the Army White Is Unnecessarily Sent to a Secure Location outside Washington

Secretary of the Army Thomas White is ordered to leave the Pentagon and go to Site R, an alternate military command center outside Washington, DC, but the decision to send him there will subsequently be found to have been a mistake and so he will return to the Pentagon later in the day. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Christopher N. Koontz, 2011, pp. 57 pdf file; Arkin, 2013, pp. 176] White arrived at the Army Operations Center (AOC) in the basement of the Pentagon sometime after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was attacked (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135] While there, he has provided leadership and guidance to personnel in the center. [Christopher N. Koontz, 2011, pp. 56 pdf file]
Army Secretary Is Ordered to Leave the Pentagon - After he has spent some time in the AOC, though, he is ordered to leave the Pentagon and go to Site R, a secure complex of buildings on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135; Arkin, 2013, pp. 176] The facility was designed as a duplicate of the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) that would serve as the Pentagon’s primary command center if the NMCC was destroyed in an attack or needed to be evacuated. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 174] White is ordered to go there by Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization. Chiarelli will later recall that he issued the order to White after he “got word that we were going to exercise a relocation plan of key leaders to a place called Site R.”
White Initially Objects to Leaving the Pentagon - White is unhappy when he is first told that he has to leave the Pentagon and refuses to go. “He communicated he was not leaving, he was staying in the building,” Chiarelli will recall. But the officer in charge of the relocation and continuity of operations plan then explains to Chiarelli that White has to go to Site R. He says: “Sir, he has no choice at this time. This has been directed and he must immediately proceed to leave here. This is bigger than him. This is continuity of the government of the United States.” Chiarelli asks the officer, “Are you sure of this?” and the officer replies: “Yes, I’m sure. Sir, you need to go up and tell him he needs to get up and go.” Chiarelli therefore goes up to White and tells him that he has “no choice; he was bound to do this; we had gotten word that this portion of the implementation plan was in effect, and that he must proceed directly to a specified place in the building where he would get in a helicopter and leave.” White then agrees to go to Site R.
Order to Send White Away Will Be Found to Be Unnecessary - He leaves the Pentagon at the same time as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz does (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and the two men are flown to the secure facility in the same helicopter, according to Chiarelli. However, personnel in the AOC will subsequently discover that the decision to send White to Site R was a mistake. “We found out that it wasn’t required for him to leave at that particular point in time, because the level of evacuation did not reach his level,” Chiarelli will say. The unnecessary order came about because the person who said White had to leave the Pentagon “misspoke over the phone,” he will add. White will therefore return to the Pentagon about four hours after leaving it. [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002]
Army Vice Chief of Staff Will Be in Charge While White Is Away - As secretary of the Army, White is the top civilian leader for the US Army and is responsible for the effective and efficient functioning of the Army. [US Department of the Army, 7/9/2002 pdf file; USA Today, 4/7/2017] He is also the “top executive agent in the Pentagon hierarchy,” the “coordinator of continuity for the Pentagon,” and the “middleman for military support to civil authorities,” according to military expert and author William Arkin. But while he is away from the Pentagon, General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army, will be “in charge of the Army (and of decisions relating to military support to civil authorities),” Arkin will write. [Arkin, 2013, pp. 176]

Entity Tags: Peter W. Chiarelli, Site R, Paul Wolfowitz, Thomas E. White, John Keane

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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