Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy faced harsh questions Tuesday from members of the House Appropriations Committee following a week of escalating embarrassment over his agents' recent episode of drunken crime scene–crashing and an extended run of frightening organizational incompetence. Clancy was ready for the criticism of his leadership, countering with a solid plan for what the committee could do to help: Give the Secret Service $8 million to build a White House of its own out in Maryland.
Clancy's testimony to the committee, via the New York Times, makes the Secret Service's 500-acre training facility in Beltsville, Maryland, sound like a mini-golf version of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with bike racks marking the fenceline and a bouncy house standing in for the building that holds the leader of the free world:
Right now, we train on a parking lot, basically. We put up a makeshift fence and walk off the distance between the fence at the White House and the 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.
What would Clancy prefer? The agency envisions a life-size replica that would "mimic the facade of the White House residence, the East and West Wings, guard booths, and the surrounding grounds and roads," according to the Times, though "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."
For $8 million, the American taxpayers deserve to have their elite protective service running around in a full-on re-creation of the White House, down to the sweeping staircases, period furniture, and bottomless ice cream freezers. Anything less could leave them dangerously unprepared to guard the First Family.
In addition to funding White House II, the Times reports that the appropriations request includes planned repairs to a "live-fire house" and a "tactical village" used to train agents in a citylike environment. To make the fake streets as real as possible, perhaps the agency could build some storefronts, maybe a "replica" of a cozy Irish pub, to recreate the environment agents are accustomed to in Washington, D.C.
A panel of security experts appointed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recommended late last year that the White House build a higher fence to prevent future intrusions onto the grounds, but cautioned that the Secret Service had "problems exposed by recent events that go deeper than a new fence can fix." A model of the White House in Beltsville is also probably not going to do it.