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Offutt Article on Presidents Bush's Stop on Base

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  • mikemakar
    Group, Here is an article from Omaha World Herald. Little bit on Pres. Bush s movements around Offutt on September 11. Mike Makar
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2002
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      Here is an article from Omaha World Herald. Little bit on Pres.
      Bush's movements around Offutt on September 11.

      Mike Makar


      Offutt exercise on Sept. 11 took real-life twist

      When terrorists struck America on Sept. 11, U.S. bombers were sitting
      gassed up on the ground, armed with nuclear weapons, as part of an
      annual war exercise.

      President Bush, center, conducts a video conference with members of
      the National Security Council while at Offutt Air Force Base near
      Bellevue on Sept. 11. Next to Bush at the table are White House Chief
      of Staff Andrew Card, left, and Adm. Richard Mies.

      The goal of the exercise: test the U.S. Strategic Command's ability
      to fight a nuclear war.

      One aspect of the exercise, called Global Guardian, involved loading
      nuclear weapons onto airplanes. The airplanes did not, however, take
      off with the weapons onboard, according to briefers at the Strategic
      Command's headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue.

      Global Guardian is one of many "practice Armageddons," as they
      sometimes are called, that the U.S. military stages to test its
      readiness. That the exercise was, according to briefers, "in full
      swing" at the time the United States came under attack is at least an
      odd coincidence.

      After keeping details of the day quiet for months, StratCom briefers
      last week provided members of the news media with information about
      the goings-on in the command headquarters that day.

      Another part of the Global Guardian exercise put three military
      command aircraft packed with sophisticated communications equipment
      in the air.

      The three E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes,
      nicknamed "Doomsday" planes during the Cold War, are based at Offutt.

      The airplanes give top government officials alternative command posts
      from which to direct U.S. forces, execute war orders and coordinate
      actions by civil authorities in times of national emergency.

      Aboard one of the three planes was the Federal Advisory Committee,
      whose chairman is retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft. The plane had
      been dispatched to bring committee members to Offutt to observe
      Global Guardian.

      Military authorities canceled the exercise after the attacks on the
      World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, but all three of the E-
      4Bs remained in the air.

      The attacks on that Tuesday morning occurred as a tour group was
      preparing to visit StratCom's underground command center, Offutt
      briefers said.

      The visitors were in town for the ninth annual Buffett Classic golf
      tournament, scheduled to get under way that day. The event raises
      money for children's charities and attracts high-powered business and
      news media people from around the country.

      Some of the visitors already were at StratCom, having breakfast with
      then-commander in chief Adm. Richard Mies.

      The group was scheduled to tour the center and receive an
      unclassified mission briefing.

      When the plane hit the second World Trade Center tower, Mies had to
      excuse himself from the group.

      Staff members had left the command center in anticipation of the tour
      group's visit. When the tour was canceled, the battle staff
      reconvened in the center.

      Base security went to its highest level.

      All eight giant video screens in the command center were loaded up
      with data, providing Mies the latest information on the unfolding
      drama as well as information on the status of America's strategic
      forces involved in the exercise.

      Although StratCom staff received word earlier in the day that
      President Bush might come to Offutt during the crisis, actual
      confirmation came only 20 minutes before his arrival, briefers said.

      The president first spent about 20 minutes in the command center,
      where StratCom staff used the video screens to bring him up to date
      on the attacks and their aftermath.

      StratCom briefers described Bush as "very collected" and concerned
      during the briefing.

      Then Bush went to another room in the headquarters, the Joint
      Intelligence Center, where he conducted a multichannel video
      conference with members of the National Security Council.

      StratCom briefers declined to comment further on the president's

      The Washington Post produced the following account of Bush's time at
      Offutt based on interviews with the president, his top aides and
      other government officials:

      Shortly after arriving at Offutt at 1:50 p.m., Bush told his highest-
      ranking Secret Service agent that he wanted to return to Washington
      as soon as possible.

      As Bush arrived in the command center, staff there were tracking a
      commercial airliner on its way from Spain to the United States. It
      was giving out an emergency signal, indicating that it might have
      been hijacked.

      Bush remembered a voice booming out from a loudspeaker. "Do we have
      permission to shoot down this aircraft?"

      "Make sure you've got the ID," the president responded. "You follow
      this guy closely to make sure."

      It was a false alarm.

      At 2:30 p.m., Bush convened the National Security Council via secure
      video links from various command centers in Washington.

      During the meeting, CIA Director George Tenet reported that he was
      virtually certain that Osama bin Laden and his network were behind
      the attacks.

      Tenet said al-Qaida was the only terrorist organization in the world
      that had the capability to pull off such well-coordinated attacks.
      Intelligence monitoring, he said, had overheard a number of known bin
      Laden operatives congratulating each other after the strikes.

      The council discussed whether it was safe for Bush to return to
      Washington and if banks, airlines and the Pentagon should continue
      business as usual the next day.

      As the meeting was ending, Bush said: "We will find these people.
      They will pay. And I don't want you to have any doubt about it."

      He boarded Air Force One, and it took off from Offutt at 3:36 p.m.
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