Skip to main content

Secret Service wants to build fake White House so it can better protect the real thing

Secret Service wants to build fake White House so it can better protect the real thing

Share this story

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Secret Service will today request $8 million from US lawmakers so that it can build a full-scale replica of the White House to be used in training exercises. The structure, which The New York Times says will recreate "the facade of the White House residence, the East and West Wings, guard booths, and the surrounding grounds and roads," will be located in Beltsville, Maryland — where the Secret Service already has a large training facility.

But right now, the agency tasked with protecting President Obama, his family, and White House staff is stuck running agents and officers through a "rudimentary, not-to-scale simulation of the north grounds of the White House," according to prepared remarks to be delivered by Secret Service director Joseph Clancy. The money he's asking for will be used to erect a "more realistic environment, conducive to scenario-based training exercises." The Times says it's unclear whether the structure will mimic all sides of the White House, but it would certainly help agents feel better prepared in case there's ever an emergency at the real one. And sadly, those aren't uncommon.

Clancy's request comes after some embarrassing lapses in security at the White House; in September, an intruder managed to clear a fence onto White House grounds and make it all the way into the East Room before he was finally detained. The event was yet another blemish on the Secret Service's reputation (Vox outlines those here) and, paired with other alarming security failures, eventually led former director Julia Pierson to resign last October. Lawmakers have urged the Secret Service to raise the White House fence and make it more difficult to scale, but clearly the agency wants to go a few steps further and prepare its officers with the ultimate White House simulation.