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Secret Service Wants White House Model

Thursday, March 19, 2015

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Building an $8 million fake White House would help the beleaguered Secret Service better protect the real thing, the agency's director says.

In testimony Tuesday (March 17) before the House Appropriations Committee, Joseph P. Clancy requested the funds to build a faux Executive Mansion 20 miles from the original to help train officers and agents.

The mockup would be located on a 500-acre Secret Service training site in Beltsville, MD.


A replica of the 215-year-old Executive Mansion would better familiarize Secret Security agents with the actual spaces they must protect, the agency's new director says.

The design is not yet complete, but initial plans call for reconstructing the facade of the 132-room, six-story structure (including the West and East Wings and residence) as well as exterior guard booths, grounds and roads.

The request follows a recent series of breaches in White House security, including an incident Sept. 19 in which an individual with a knife jumped the fence and made it into the residence before being caught.

Parking Lot Training

"Right now, we train on a parking lot, basically," said Clancy, who was appointed to his position in February.

"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."

Pete Souza / The White House

Secret Service agents now train on a parking lot, said director Joseph Clancy. "We don't have the bushes, we don't have the fountains, we don't get a realistic look at the White House," he said.

Even K9 training is compromised, because the dogs have to respond "on hard surfaces rather than grass," Clancy said.

"We think 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 uniformed division officers, our  agents and our tactical teams."

U.S. Special Forces usually build models on which to train, "so they know exactly what they're getting into," he said.

More Training Recommended

Additional training for the U.S. Secret Service was a chief recommendation of an independent panel convened in October by the Department of Homeland Security to review White House security. (The other key recommendations were for new Secret Service leadership and a new, taller, harder-to-climb White House fence.)

In an Executive Summary of its December report, the so-called Protective Missions Panel praised the Service's performance, while adding: "For an organization that has a zero-failure mission, however, a commitment to constant improvement and a refusal to compromise are essential."

Legoland California

Security is not a problem at the White House in Legoland California.

Training "has diminished far below acceptable levels," the panel said.

The panel urged not only more training, but training "in conditions that replicate the physical environment in which they will operate"—the goal of Clancy's faux White House.

"A security team should also be trained so that it is intimately familiar with the space in which it is operating," the report said.

Other Imitators

If the Secret Service does get its own White House model, it won't be the first to do so.

Two replicas have been built in Lego bricks in the Miniland section of Legoland Califoria and Legoland Florida.

Chu Nguyen (left); Wikimapia (right)

White House models have also been built in McLean, VA (left), and Hangzhou, China (right). A Vietnamese-born engineer built and lived in the McLean version because "he wanted to pay tribute to America's history and culture," his agent said.

An Vietnamese-born engineer built, and lived in, a scaled-down 12,000-square-foot model in McLean, VA, before selling it in 2011. His real-estate agent said the owner "wanted to pay tribute to America's history and culture."

There is even a White House springing up in northern Iraq, AOL reports. A wealthy Kurdish businessman is having the $17 million structure in the city of Erbil built to scale.

The Iraqi White House has something else in common with the 215-year-old D.C. original.

A strong presence by the militant group ISIS near Erbil has that White House taking a fresh look at its security, according to ABC News.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building design; Building Envelope; Commercial Construction; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Government; Health and safety; North America; Residential Construction

Comment from Paul Braun, (3/19/2015, 9:01 AM)

thinking outside the box here... why not recruit toddlers and raise a generation of Secret Service agents. In the formative years, use the Lego White House as the training facility. By the time they're 18- second nature. You're welcome, Treasury Department

Comment from Edward Kelly, (3/19/2015, 9:33 AM)

REALLY! Any number of government funded colleges would jump at the chance to construct a 3 D computer generated model of the White House that would be capable of providing every possible scenario that could be imagined. Its capabilities for training and preparedness are endless and would only be held back by human shortsightedness. For example: In any square foot on the premises the air current speed(s), direction, dispersing rate, could be reproduced for any type lethal airborne contaminate. I think for a lot less money someone should be looking at this type of technology rather than the proposed physical replica that would perpetually require constant grounds and structural upkeep and security. spending what has been proposed that would be introduced to this computer generated facsimile

Comment from Chuck Pease, (3/20/2015, 12:38 PM)

You have to admit, the Administration is very creative at ways to part us from our tax dollars. When will we ever see common sense up on the hill?

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