WASHINGTON – Forget about the midterm elections and speculation
about West Wing personnel shake-ups. The big question being asked
around the White House is, what's that noisy construction really all about?
The drilling, clanging and banging are tearing up parts of the front lawn
of the White House, obstructing the view for tourists on Pennsylvania
Avenue and causing headaches — literally — for the staff.
"Every, like, three minutes for the past four hours, that machine has
clanged to get the dirt off of the drill bit," White House press secretary
Robert Gibbs said, referring a giant rig outside his office. "It is the single most unnerving thing."
The work is so intensive that it has raised questions, particularly among
skeptical White House reporters, about the true purpose of the project.
The government assures it is a run-of-the-mill upgrade of utilities,
albeit one made complex by the fact that the White House must stay in operation the whole time.
Big construction projects — most of them unannounced,
unexplained and done at undisclosed cost — are not uncommon at the White House.
Often they are hidden behind tall fences or even in buildings shielding them
from view. A major project undertaken during the Reagan
administration was situated near the East Wing and lasted for
many months, concealed from public sight. It was widely
believed to be connected with the underground bunker known a
s the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, or the PEOC.
Protected by vault doors, the center is said to be able to withstand
the devastating effects of a nuclear blast. Former President George W. Bush
met with national security advisers there on the night of
the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Vice President Dick Cheney spent much
of that day in the emergency operations center and, according to
then-counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, complained that the
bunker's communications systems were terrible.
Clarke said he couldn't resist pointing out that he had recommended
building a new bunker but that Bush had rejected the project.
"It'll happen," Cheney said, according to Clarke in his recounting
of what happened at the White House on the day of the attacks.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration closed hundreds
of offices in the massive Eisenhower Executive Office Building
that were exposed to a public street — and possibly vulnerable to
attack — while all the windows were replaced with bomb-resistant
materials and walls were reinforced.
One project that was proposed years ago — and then dropped —
called for digging under the North Lawn of the White House to
excavate a cavernous space where underground offices would
be built for the relocation of the press corps from their prized
West Wing digs. Years later, a multimillion dollar project was
undertaken to strip the press area down to bare brick walls and
completely rebuild and modernize the facilities.
At roughly the same time, the basement Situation Room
complex was overhauled to install the video screens, fiber
optics and other high-tech communications gear that until
then existed mostly in movie depictions. Not surprisingly, the
project was kept secret until just before the revamped site was reopened in January 2007.
In a highly publicized project in 1979, then-President Jimmy
Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the West Wing
to harvest the rays of the sun to heat water. In 1986 the Reagan
administration quietly dismantled the installation while resurfacing the roof.
In the current project, the General Services Administration,
which oversees White House construction, says workers are
updating a host of utilities in the East and West Wings of the
building, including heating, cooling and electrical systems, as well as the fire alarm equipment.
The last major upgrade to the utility systems was more than 40 years ago.
And all the mess will be around for a while. The whole
project is scheduled to run at least four years.
Meanwhile, in order to modernize the utilities at 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue, workers have turned the North
Lawn into a construction zone, erecting chain-linked fences
, driving dump trucks up and down the White House driveway,
and setting up rigs and cranes.
The walkway leading into the West Wing has been rerouted.
A 15-foot platform was built on what's referred to as
"Pebble Beach" — the flagstone area alongside the driveway
where television correspondents report live from the White House
— so photographers can shoot over the top of the construction.
With all of that commotion happening just steps away
from the watchful eye of the White House press corps,
it's no surprise that there are plenty of conspiracy
theories, from jokes that workers are drilling for oil
to speculation that a new press room is
being built to keep reporters out of the West Wing.
Even Gibbs has his own theories.
"A parking deck, I think," he joked. "Or they're moving
the Washington Monument."
But, for the record, GSA communications director
( notice the name-could be a muslim) they will lie to non-muslims also,
That is a fact!-cannot be trusted!
( Sahar Wali )
says there are no secret projects.
Still who can trust a government who wants to take our freedom away to defend ourselves
and a government that lies to us,and a government right now at
present time wants to keep the American people under their thumb!
I personally think it should be watched carefully and looked into.
Anything Obama does is not for America! and has not been! that is enough for me,
to feel uneasy with anything they do right now,i will feel much better when
the swine are running out of the Whitehouse! Praise God!