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Suggested Citation:"FINDINGS." National Research Council. 2003. Assuring the Safety of the Pentagon Mail: Letter Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10901.
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3 Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, and of the Department of Homeland Security. Committee members and Academies staff toured Pentagon facilities and US Postal Service facilities in the course of the information- gathering process. After its October 20–22, 2003, meeting the committee generated a list of questions and organizations to which the questions were directed with the request that the committee be able to discuss the questions with appropriate knowledgeable people. On November 5, one member of the committee and one staff person from the Board on Radiation Effects Research visited the Pentagon again to inspect the mail-handling procedures while they were in progress. In its November 11–13, 2003, meeting the committee completed its interviews with the appropriate persons and proceeded to compile and write its report. The report was then subjected to the Academies review process before being sent to the DPO. The review process used for this report is detailed in Appendix C. FINDINGS The Pentagon was a target of the September 11, 2001 attack by air. Because of increasing terrorist attacks worldwide and the central role of the Department of Defense (DOD) in combating terrorism, it must be considered a likely target not only of terrorist organizations but also of deranged individuals. The committee's findings were grouped into three categories: (1) overall risk assessment; (2) USPS operations; and (3) DPO operations. Category (2) was necessary because, to assess and evaluate whether the procedures practiced by the DPO at the Pentagon were appropriate, the committee needed to look “upstream” at the procedures implemented by the USPS that determined the status of the mail when it arrived at the Pentagon. The committee felt that the USPS had implemented extraordinary procedures after the anthrax incidents in the fall of 2001 and that the mail inspection in use at the Pentagon should be “adding value”, i.e. reducing risk, to what the USPS was doing if it were to continue. Therefore the committee examined the steps in the process by which the mail is separated, processed, and transported before arrival at the Pentagon. The committee considered primarily the threat and risk from attack by anthrax but also considered the protection afforded by the procedures against a broader array of biological agents. USPS mitigates potential anthrax and other biological agents by having mail and packages subjected to irradiation. This irradiation process has been validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It not only achieves decontamination against any anticipated anthrax conveyed through the mail but also is likely to be equally effective against all other microbial agents and spores1. The committee found that from a scientific standpoint the radiation doses being used ensured that significant numbers of anthrax spores (i.e. levels considered to be necessary to cause inhalation anthrax infection) would not survive the irradiation process. Whereas current operations require transport of mail between USPS and a vendor for irradiation, a new facility in the Washington area will reduce transport and the associated delays. 1U.S. Postal Service Emergency Preparedness Plan for Protecting Postal Employees and Postal Customers From Exposure to Biohazardous Material and for Ensuring Mail Security Against Bioterror Attacks Emergency Preparedness Plan. March 6, 2002.

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