Shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government surveyed the sorts of air defense systems available from a variety of agencies – for use here, or elsewhere in the country. The government then conducted experiments to determine how they could best work in concert with one another.
The missile launchers that can be seen from the South Capitol Street bridge are the result of the government’s planning efforts.
The protection measures would include Customs Service aircraft flying high, keeping track of air traffic over the metro area, Air National Guard fighter jets patrolling above and Army radar systems positioned alongside Avenger air defense missile systems mounted on HumVees.
The government put these measures in place during President Bush’s January State of the Union message, then pulled them back. They went back into place when officials determined there was an increased likelihood for terrorist attacks and increased the nation’s Homeland Security alert status to orange from yellow.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the latest terrorism alert represented “the most significant” such warning since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
On the five-color alert scale, red is the highest, but no such terrorist warning level has yet been issued.