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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 5:25 p.m., Thursday, September 27, 2001

Cayetano to officially activate National Guard at airports

Associated Press

Gov. Ben Cayetano said today he will activate the National Guard at Hawaii airports in response to President Bush's call for state action until the federal government can take over aviation security.

At the same time, the U.S. Pacific Command confirmed that its commander, Adm. Dennis C. Blair, has the authority, as a last resort, to shoot down any hijacked civilian aircraft that threatens Hawaii. Two Air Force generals have the responsibility for the rest of the country.

Cayetano indicated that guard units would be stationed at airport screening locations at state airports by the end of next week. Hawai'i Army National Guard soldiers with loaded M-16 rifles have already been standing watch at the Honolulu International Airport.

Bush's plan to use National Guard units envisions use of 4,000-5,000 troops at the nation's 420 commercial airports for up to six months while the federal government prepares a plan for the nation's airports.

"The President's request for the governors to activate National Guard troops to provide interim security at our airports is a solid step forward in assuring the American people and the world that our airports are secure for travel," Cayetano said in a news release.

Cayetano was meeting with members of his cabinet this afternoon to discuss specific plans for placing guard personnel at the state's airports.

"These personnel will augment security at our airports during the estimated six-month transition period the federal government needs to take over responsibility for airport security from the air carriers," Cayetano said.

Maj. Sean Gibson, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman, confirmed today that Blair would have the shootdown authority for Hawaii. Maj. Gen. Larry K. Arnold at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., would have the authority for airliners flying over the 48 contiguous states. Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, would cover Alaska.

The shootdown authority was part of new military rules of engagement crafted by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Despite the designation of Blair and the two generals, White House spokesman Scott McClelland said that every attempt will be made to follow the chain of command before any order is given to down a plane full of passengers.

In the hours after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center using hijacked airliners, Bush had ordered the military to intercept and shoot down any commercial airliners that refused instructions to turn away from Washington.

Military jets were scrambled too late, however, to head off the crash of another airliner into the Pentagon and passengers apparently caused the premature crash of a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania.

Rumsfeld has ordered fighter jets at 26 bases nationwide to be prepared to take off on 10-minute notice and fighter jets are maintaining 24-hour patrols are some U.S. cities.

The Pacific Command spokesman declined to discuss security measures being taken at military facilities in the state.