Joseph P. Clancy, the director of the Secret Service, on Tuesday urged the House Appropriations Committee to give him money to build a detailed replica of the White House to aid in training officers and agents to protect the real thing.
WASHINGTON — Stung by accusations that it cannot adequately protect the White House, the Secret Service wants to spend $8 million to build another White House in Beltsville, Md.
In testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Joseph P. Clancy, the director of the Secret Service, on Tuesday urged lawmakers to give him money to build a detailed replica of the White House to aid in training officers and agents to protect the real thing. Beltsville, about 20 miles from the real White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., is the location of a 500-acre Secret Service training site in the verdant terrain of southern Maryland.
“Right now, we train on a parking lot, basically,” Clancy said. “We put up a makeshift fence and walk off the distance between the fence at the White House and the actual house itself. We don’t have the bushes, we don’t have the fountains, we don’t get a realistic look at the White House.”
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Clancy added, “It’s important to have a true replica of what the White House is so we can do a better job of this integrated training between our uniform division officers, our agents and our tactical teams.”
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The proposed replica would provide what Clancy described in prepared testimony 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.
It is unclear whether the structure would be a full-scale replica of all sides of the White House. Officials said the design had not yet been completed.
The request came six months after an intruder scaled a wrought-iron fence around the White House and ran through an unlocked front door of the residence and into the East Room before officers tackled him.
Under aggressive questioning, Clancy cautioned that some of the facts about the March 4 accident had not been verified. Contrary to initial reports of a dramatic crash into a White House barricade, Clancy said a surveillance video showed the agents’ car slowly nudging an orange construction barrel out of the way so it could move forward.
The incident raised deep concerns about security at the White House and prompted several inquiries into what should be done to prevent breaches. A panel of security experts appointed by Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, urged building a higher fence immediately.
But the panel also said the “problems exposed by recent events go deeper than a new fence can fix.” Members of the panel urged the Secret Service to increase the time that agents and officers devote to training and recommended that employees train “in conditions that replicate the physical environment in which they will operate.”
“A security team should also be trained so that it is intimately familiar with the space in which it is operating,” the report’s authors wrote to Johnson.
The Secret Service appears to have taken that last piece of advice to heart. In addition to money for a mock White House, the agency’s budget request includes funds to renovate a “live-fire shoot house” and to repair and enhance a “tactical village” training site that aims to re-create a city-street environment.