The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, “the Pentagon” is often used metonymically to refer to the U.S. Department of Defense rather than the building itself.
Designed by American architect George Bergstrom (1876–1955), and built by general contractor John McShain of Philadelphia, the building was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction on September 11, 1941. General Brehon Somervell provided the major motive power behind the project; Colonel Leslie Groves was responsible for overseeing the project for the U.S. Army.
The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building by floor area, with about 6,500,000 sq ft (600,000 m2), of which 3,700,000 sq ft (340,000 m2) are used as offices. Approximately 28,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 mi (28.2 km) of corridors. The Pentagon includes a five-acre (20,000 m2) central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon and informally known as “ground zero,” a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) is a United States government agency composed of sworn federal police officers, the United States Pentagon Police and civilian CBRN technicians, and non-sworn civilian anti-terrorism investigative and physical security personnel, and is responsible for the protection of the Pentagon. The Department of Defense created the PFPA after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The new agency absorbed the Defense Protective Service (DPS) and assumed its role of providing basic law enforcement and security for the Pentagon and Department of Defense sites in the 280 acre (1.1 km2) “Pentagon Reservation” and greater National Capital Region (NCR). PFPA was also charged with providing force protection against the full spectrum of potential threats through robust prevention, preparedness, detection, and response measures. The United States Pentagon Police is the primary federal law enforcement arm of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
The Pentagon has over 20 of its own fast food operations, including Subway, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panda Express, Starbucks and Sbarro, among others. A multibranded KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurant opened in 2003, when renovations to the food court were completed. Food services are managed by the Navy Exchange. The Center Courtyard Cafe reopened in the spring of 2008, replacing the “Ground Zero Cafe” snack bar that was previously there.
The Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC), a fitness center for military and civilian staff, opened in 2004 adjacent to the north side of the Pentagon, replacing the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club (POAC) which had operated for 55 years in a structure between Route 110 and the parade grounds. Each year, the Pentagon grounds are a major focus for hosting the Marine Corps Marathon and the Army Ten-Miler running events.
There is a Meditation and Prayer Room in the Pentagon, which was dedicated on December 14, 1970, by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.
In conjunction with the 1976 American Bicentennial, the Pentagon began offering guided tours to the general public. Tours were suspended after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but are currently available on an arranged basis to the general public.
The Pentagon and its parking lots are used as a staging area for a number of large events, including the Army Ten-Miler, the Marine Corps Marathon and Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride. In 2005 the Department of Defense organized the “America Supports Your Freedom Walk” in the parking lot, an event held to show solidarity with the department’s current and former employees.
The roads of the Pentagon Reservation are routinely used daily by thousands of commuters between Arlington, Virginia and Washington, DC.