Offutt Article on Presidents Bush's Stop on Base
Here is an article from Omaha World Herald. Little bit on Pres.
Bush's movements around Offutt on September 11.
Offutt exercise on Sept. 11 took real-life twist
BY JOE DEJKA WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
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
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
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
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
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
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.