Six months ago, an armed intruder hopped the fence at the White House, opened an unlocked door, overpowered a Secret Service agent, and made it to the Green Room before being tackled by a swarm of agents. The immediate fix: Build a taller fence.
A longer term fix: Build a fake White House. The New York Times is reporting that later today, the director of the Secret Service, Joseph P. Clancy, will ask for $8 million to build a replica of the White House for training Secret Service agents. From the article:
“The Secret Service currently uses a rudimentary, not-to-scale simulation of the north grounds of the White House, using bike barricades to act as the fencing,” Mr. Clancy will tell lawmakers, according to the prepared remarks. “There are no structures, vehicle gates, lighting or other aids to enhance the training simulations.”
The proposed replica would provide what Mr. Clancy describes as a “more realistic environment, conducive to scenario-based training exercises,” for instructing those who must protect the president’s home. It would mimic the facade of the White House residence, the East and West Wings, guard booths, and the surrounding grounds and roads.
If it’s hard for you to believe that the Secret Service doesn’t already have a full-scale training facility, realize that as recently as the 1970s, the Secret Service was learning the lay of the White House by watching films of dignitaries arriving on the grounds. It wasn’t until 1982 that government approved $1.6 million to build the existing facade in Beltsville, Maryland. As Tex Gunnels, the staff adviser to the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversaw the Secret Service, justified the expense at the time, “We can’t afford to have the President killed. My God, the whole country goes into shock.”