After filling my mug, Connie handed me the note that Ben and Frank were in the building and that Art was on his way and would be here in ten minutes. While I was at her desk I picked up the handful of messages that had accumulated in the last two hours.
One was a note from VP Harrison – he needed guidance on a trip he was making tomorrow when I had time. That would be an interesting conversation for sure.
I carried the rest and the mug back to the meeting room.
The Admiral, the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Naval Operations were on phones.
I decided that Frank, Ben, Troy, Art when he arrived and I would move to the Oval Office for our discussion. That would allow the defense people more time to get answers.
I rapped the table. ”I have an emergency meeting – I will be back in an hour so you have a little more time to get answers. I will remind you that all discussions, notes and any information disseminated are classified,” I said as Troy and I stood to leave.
In the Oval Office I asked what intelligence had been collected in the last few days from the Middle East from all the normal channels. I listened at all the reports of nothing going on and wondered if they were holding out on me because of the position change.
I informed the experts – and I used that term loosely – that JBG had two new listening stations in the Persian Gulf area as part of their contracts.
”Those listening stations are only beginning operations for one shift but will soon be twenty four seven. Here is some of the information they have already intercepted,” I said as I started it around the circle.
”Did you miss the data blast that Tiam and the General broadcast or have you just failed to analyze it yet? There were new codes, a new coding system, added some channels and a daily rotation of coding. Where are you at with reports on it?” I asked.
I waited while the papers were passed around while sipping my coffee.
”No, I haven’t seen any of this, we assumed that when the links went dead they were going to come up with different ones and have been looking for them. It’s generally considered bad operations to use old systems that you think may have been compromised,” Frank said.
”My initial reaction is that this is misinformation to see if and how we respond,” I said.
”If it is not misinformation, then it is one big pile of trouble. They have to know if they do this that it is a declaration of war. They should know you of all people will respond aggressively,” Art said.
”So this is why you jumped on the Admirals so hard,” Troy said.
”Just wait until we go back in there. They should never have let things get this way,”
”I need to go back and ride some people at the agency that have gotten lax in the last few months,” Ben said.
”We all do,” Art said.
”What’s the chance of the agency getting a couple desks at the listening post?” Frank asked.
”I can’t answer that – Vicky and others negotiated that as a second contract while I started doing on the job training for the VP position, I know nothing of the terms,” I said with a straight poker face.
”When I talk with the girls tonight and over the weekend I will ask for details on the contract restrictions. I expect there to be few restrictions but I need to verify,” I said. ”Check with me Tuesday.”
”There is also going to be a third listening post at the Oman site. You do know there are going to be dry dock, repair and substantial barracks available there. That is where aviation and the larger number of fast ships are going to be placed based on the reported number of attempted pirate attacks,” I said.
”Well, we will revisit all the data at Tuesday’s National Security meeting; all of us should have more to share,” I said.
”It’s time to go cause some heartburn for some Navy people,” I said as I stood.
The Navy people were still on the phones, the Secretary of Defense hung up on his as we came back in the door.
They had called in reinforcements of their own, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Ingram. I could see desperation afoot.
I slid the folder over to the Ingram.
”Tell me what you have found out,” I said.
”The Fordson will not be available, the engineers are saying another year at least to fix multiple issues with electromagnetic systems, elevators, steering and catapult,” the Chief of Naval Operations said.
”The Kennedy is having the same problems, another two years at least, then sea trials,” he said.
”So you are telling me that fifty billion worth of new carriers – one that is going to be at half life rebuild and never on a tour – are simply going to be dock ornaments sitting this one out if it happens,” I said.
He didn’t answer just hung his head.
”What about the others?” I asked.
”The Washington is back in the water from midlife refueling and overhaul. It will take another year, possibly more,” he said.
”The Stennis has been in Norfolk since May waiting to start mid-life refueling and overhaul. That’s a four year project. The dry dock has been tied up with Fordson and Kennedy issues.”
”The Truman may be repaired and back at sea in two months from an electrical fire. Newport News pulled parts from the Washington to get the Truman repaired. The carrier task force was sent to the duty station with no carrier,” he said.
”The Eisenhower is finishing up training and may be ready in four months,” he said.
”The Bush is in dry dock getting upgrades. May be done in a year,” he added.
”So the Fordson, the Kennedy and the Stennis are all out of the picture. The Washington, Truman, the Bush and Eisenhower are all possible if enough manpower is assigned the get the repairs finished,” I said.
”Newport News Shipbuilding doesn’t have any more manpower; they are stretched to the limit. The problems with the Fordson and Kennedy and the emergency repairs to the Truman have been too much,” he said.
”There are two more Fordson class ships under construction. The next in line is the Enterprise – that is twenty percent done – scheduled to join the fleet in 2030 and the other in 2035,” he said.
”That’s if you find an answer to electromagnetic problems that have eluded you for ten years,” I said.
”Unfortunately yes,” he replied.
”Does the Stennis have enough power in the fuel rods to make it another year?” I asked?
”I can’t answer that. The experts will have to evaluate the data,” the Chief of Naval Operations said.
This time he did not need me to throw the phone, he picked it up and started dialing.
General Ingram passed a note to me, ”The old Enterprise is sitting at the dock in line for decommissioning. I doubt Newport News has done anything to it if they are that busy. Ask the same question about fuel and getting it back in service.”
I did and didn’t get an answer. The Chief of Naval Operations needed time to question the experts.
Finally I decided that I needed to do some more research myself over the next few days while the experts did their own research.
”All of you be here 0800 Tuesday with updates and answers to all my questions,” I said.
My meeting with VP Harrison lasted an hour. He was going on a junket to the UK to discuss matters that I had begun on my stop there not long ago.
Supper was light and early; I wanted time to spend with the girls and boys tonight.
Saturday morning I was in black again, this time a long dress and heavy long jacket. It was a cold third week in January for the memorial service and funeral in Kansas.
It was 1400 before the funeral service was over. President Alexander Thomas and his family were going to get one more ride in Air Force 1. It was carrying his body to Kansas for internment. It was to be a private affair – close family only.
The Secret Service was getting things ready for me to go home tonight. It was a lot more involved than I dreamed, certainly a lot more involved than when I was VP.
I listened while they went through the scenario.
A thirty car motorcade, reduce traffic on Severn River Bridge to one lane, have the bay bridge stop one lane in advance and stop traffic on the bay bridge completely when the motorcade approaches.
“No, we are not doing this, fly me to Morton in Marine One; I have plenty of armored Suburbans there. Fly the Secret Service agents there or else my JBG people can handle my security,” I said.
That went over like a lead balloon. But they did compromise. Marine One and Two would carry me, Lorrie, Jenny, Sara, and the boys along with the football and its carriers to Morton. The helicopters would be placed in one of the hangars in case I needed them for a fast trip back to the White House.
The White House Secret Service contingent would drive to my house. They had been inspecting the house and the Horsey office building, trying to decide where they wanted things they deemed necessary. They were pissed they were not allowed access to the tunnel to the main office or basement. Marcy and Vicky had put their foot down on who was to have access.
They were to have the last ten rooms on the second floor for a price, a very good price. They wanted first class accommodations; the works, maid service, room, gym access and memberships.
It took Marine One thirty minutes to get to Morton. When it touched down I was in for another surprise. Q-town’s ambulance, rescue truck and engine were inside the fence.
I asked why?
”Any time the President flies in one of the executive helicopters they become Marine One and emergency services have to be at the landing zone,” an agent responded.
That’s comforting, are they in such bad shape they are afraid they will crash or self-destruct on landing? I thought.
The blades had to stop turning before they would allow me to exit. When I did I stepped into the lights of TV cameras and flash bulbs. My travel plans were now posted for the media. I was going to change some of that soon.
I wondered why the agency didn’t use the Morton Field fire truck but then there was no rescue or ambulance.
With Ziva, Abra and a couple Secret Service agents by my side I walked to the fire crews and apologized for getting them out on such a cold night.
”Have the Chief call me tomorrow. He has my number,” I said.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.