For more than a year White House staff and press have had to deal with the noise of jackhammers and other construction coming from near the West Wing. Today, just off the north lawn in front of the West Wing where the sound emanated from sits a hole. ABC News reports that the General Services Administration claims the construction is an upgrade for the buildings antiquated utilities. Some are skeptical if that's the full story:
"Some believe it’s an expansion of the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, while others guess the construction is to add underground access from the White House to the Old Executive Office Building, or to the Treasury Building.
The jokes have also come in, is it a new swimming pool? A presidential man cave? A way to create jobs?"
In April, officials told AP that completion of the White House's "Big Dig" was still years away. Part of the construction includes an underground tunnel which officials say will only be used as a pathway for replacement of the new utilities infrastructure at the proper depth and location. Spokeswoman Sahar Wali said in April that the construction is not putting in place longstanding plans for underground office space and will not involve the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, the hardened bunker under the East Wing that's a shelter for nuclear attack.
However, a New York Times article published Tuesday says the final phase of construction will take place near the emergency center and involve security:
"Although White House officials say they don't know too much about the construction, some have said they think it is, as one put it, 'security related.'
Another White House official said that the construction would eventually link whatever is being built underground with the operations center, which was originally built during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt - the idea being a general expansion of an emergency base of operations.
'It is security-related construction,' said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the project. 'Even we don't know exactly what.'
A larger operations center would reduce the need for emergency evacuations to shadow government locations like Mount Weather in Bluemont, Va., and would help ensure continuity of government,' as Mr. Cheney has put it."
ABC News reports that the dig is the first step in a $376 million project that will last for four years and progress across the North Lawn all the way to the East Wing. The West Wing portion alone is costing $86 million.
What do you think the White House dig and construction could be building?