At the City of Alexandria’s request, Pentagon officials will hold a community meeting to provide information and answer questions about the Pentagon’s plans to screen incoming mail and other deliveries at the Department of Defense’s Mark Center Building in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting will be held on Nov. 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. EST, in the auditorium of Francis C. Hammond Middle School, 4646 Seminary Rd., Alexandria, Virginia.
Prior to delivery, all mail and packages addressed to certain military facilities undergo enhanced screening and protective measures by the United States Postal Service and private delivery companies. Items delivered to the Pentagon are then subjected to extensive additional screening at a facility on the Pentagon Reservation. The rigorous screening process tests for the presence of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive threats, and the facility is designed with multiple levels of protection to prevent any potential hazards from leaving the screening room. Only one threat (biological) has ever been identified in the 18 years this screening process has operated, and it was safely contained.
The current Pentagon mail screening facility, which was built following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was intended for temporary use until a permanent facility could be built. It has reached the end of its useful service life and must be replaced. The Mark Center Building in Alexandria, which houses Department of Defense offices, was built with a mail screening facility that is not currently in use. The Pentagon Force Protection Agency plans to move its mail screening operation to the Mark Center Building once the new facility is ready in early 2020. This will provide a secure, modern screening facility to continue the high level of screening for Pentagon mail, add rigorous screening to current deliveries to the Mark Center Building, and avoid the need for federal taxpayers to fund a new facility that would cost an estimated $44 million. As a result of increased use of email and other online communications, the Pentagon receives an average of only about 2,000 letters and packages per day.
“While we have made it clear to Pentagon officials that we don’t want additional sensitive deliveries brought to Alexandria for screening,” said Mayor Justin Wilson, “we will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure that all risks are properly mitigated.”
“Our military facilities rely on the support of neighboring communities,” said Jonathan Cofer, director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. “We live in those communities, too, and we are committed to ensuring the safety of our employees, our neighbors, and the American public.”
Although the decision to begin screening mail in Alexandria was made independently by the Department of Defense, City staff have toured the new facility and worked with Pentagon officials to establish emergency response protocols to protect public health and safety. The City’s Fire, Health, and Police Departments are prepared to respond in the event of an emergency.