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Profile: Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM)
Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Staff at Fort Monmouth, an Army base in New Jersey located about 50 miles south of New York City, is preparing to hold a “disaster drill” to test emergency response capabilities to a fake chemical attack. The exercise, called Timely Alert II, is to involve various law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel, including Fort Monmouth firefighters and members of the New Jersey State Police. Personnel are to be deployed and measures taken as in a real emergency. A notice has been sent out, warning that anyone not conducting official business will be turned away from Fort Monmouth during the exercise. Soon after 9 a.m., the exercise director tells a group of participating volunteers that a hijacked plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. The participants pretend to be upset, believing this is just part of the simulation. When they see the live televised footage of the WTC attacks, some people at the base think it is an elaborate training video to accompany the exercise. One worker tells a fire department training officer: “You really outdid yourself this time.” Interestingly, the follow-up exercise held in July 2002 (Timely Alert III) does incorporate simulated television news reports to give participants the impression that the emergency is real. And in the first Timely Alert exercise, held on the base in January 2001, a call had come through of a supposed “real” bomb situation, but this “fortunately turned out to be a report related to a training aid being used during the exercise.” On 9/11, Fort Monmouth is geared to go into high-alert status as part of Timely Alert II. The exercise is called off once the base is alerted to the real attacks. [Monmouth Message, 2/9/2001; Hub, 9/21/2001; Monmouth Message, 9/21/2001; Asbury Park Press, 7/24/2002; Monmouth Message, 8/23/2002; US Department of the Army, 7/26/2003 ; Monmouth Message, 9/12/2003] Fort Monmouth is home to various Army, Defense Department, and other government agencies. The largest of these is the US Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM). CECOM serves to “develop, acquire, field, and sustain superior information technologies and integrated systems for America’s warfighters.” It is tasked with the “critical role of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).”
[Communications-Electronics Command, 4/17/2002; US Department of the Army, 1/2003 ; GlobalSecurity (.org), 2/12/2006] Fort Monmouth services also directly assist in the emergency response later in the day. Its fire department deploys to Atlantic Highlands to assist passengers coming from Manhattan by ferry, and members of its Patterson Army Health Clinic are also sent out to help. Teams of CECOM experts from the base are later deployed to ground zero in New York with equipment capable of locating cellular phone transmissions within the ruins of the collapsed World Trade Center. Its explosive ordnance company is also deployed to assist authorities should they come across anything they think might be explosives, while digging through the debris in search of victims. [Hub, 9/21/2001; Monmouth Message, 9/21/2001]
Logo of the New York State Emergency Management Office. [Source: New York State Emergency Management Office]Investigators searching the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center towers are reported to have detected a signal from one of the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC on September 11, although government officials will later say that these two planes’ black boxes were never found. [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 ; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] The two “black boxes” carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] A report published today by the New York State Emergency Management Office states that “[i]nvestigators have identified the signal from one of the black boxes in the WTC debris.” [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 ] Furthermore, a team from the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) arrived at Ground Zero on September 13 “and scoped the area using classified signal equipment,” according to Federal Computer Week magazine, and according to Toni Quiroz, chief of the computer networking branch at CECOM, “The team managed to get some signals that could have emanated from the black boxes.” Quiroz will add, however, that “it was never determined if they were the recorders.” [Federal Computer Week, 9/16/2002] But a report published by the New York City Office of Emergency Management on September 25 will state that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been “[u]nable to detect any ‘pinging’ from either ‘black box’” at Ground Zero. [New York City Office of Emergency Management, 9/25/2001 ] A firefighter and a volunteer who are involved in the recovery effort at Ground Zero will say they helped federal agents find three of the four black boxes in the WTC debris (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found” and the FBI will, in 2004, make the same claim. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]
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