With the release of the report of the Select Committee on Benghazi this week, we were reminded of our government’s failure to defend American lives during the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya. Four Americans were killed during the attack. The question that continues to haunt many Americans: Why couldn’t we scramble any F-16s from Aviano Air Base in Italy for 13 hours when our fellow Americans were under attack?
This morning at Joint Base Andrews, an active shooter exercise was mistaken for an actual attack. The military base, which is located in the suburbs of Washington and is home to the “Air Force One” presidential aircraft, was placed on lockdown while the tense situation unfolded. Armed response teams and other first responders quickly assessed the situation and realized the mistake. Thankfully, nothing except some minor chaos resulted.
Ever since the September 11 attacks, standard procedure in the Washington area is to launch a combat air patrol (CAP) of F-16s or other fighter aircraft to protect the nation’s capital in case a local event is prelude to a larger attack. At least that’s one lesson we haven’t forgotten from 9/11. I live and work in the D.C. area so I can sometimes see the jets; more often I can hear their engines. Today was no different. I could hear the CAP fly above while the situation at Joint Base Andrews unfolded below. It is a prudent defensive move, and I’m told the pilots need the flight hours anyway.
Alas, today’s events underscore the same question as above: If F-16s are used to protect the nation’s capital during a situation like today’s, why couldn’t we scramble any F-16s from Aviano Air Base in Italy for 13 hours when Americans were under attack at Benghazi? We wish we knew the answer.