April 9. The big shed is being dismantled, revealing that it had been concealing the construction of another building inside it, similar in appearance to the one in front of it (see photo below) that had been under construction for the past year. Meanwhile, on April 7, the Washington Post ran a confusing story about a mysterious power failure that seemed to affect only the White House and other government buildings for which this facility probably will provide emergency backup power.

East Potomac Park Secret Construction

Ten-Year-Old Secret Site In Nation's Capital Gets Permanent Building

by Charles Packer

Washington, D.C., March 2015. Within walking distance of the tourist attractions of the National Mall is a four-acre fenced compound dominated by hangar-like metal shed. It's easily visible from the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial. A government project, it has been there since 2004. At the outset the government made clear that nothing was going to be said about it. Nobody has asked since, evidently, because no news has been published about it. All that's known is that the Navy is in charge.

Historically, the Navy has been associated with White House infrastructure. It runs the White House dining facility, the Navy Mess. Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, is a Navy installation. During the Cold War, the Navy built and maintained a network of microwave relay towers in the hills of Maryland and Pennsylvania that provided communications between Washington and several secret underground emergency refuges.

Therefore, I've concluded that the purpose of this project is to support White House activities related to national security. In an earlier article I speculated, based on the work that was visible at the site up to that time, that the site was the midpoint of a tunnel being excavated between the White House and the Pentagon to contain high-bandwidth cable for real-time monitoring of military operations. It would be hard for such visible construction activity to be classified, but workers at all levels of responsibility evidently have been coached to deflect questions about it. In 2004, the Washington Post reporter was told that the project was a "utility assessment project." Ten years later, when I had an opportunity to approach a worker and ask what was going on, he used exactly the same words, and referred me to his supervisor when I tried to question him further.

Now, a permanent cinderblock building is nearing completion adjacent to the big shed. I've been making frequent visits to the site during its construction to photograph the progress from a nearby railroad embankment that provides a view over the fence surrounding the compound. An engineer who reviewed the photos below suggested that the building contains diesel generators for providing backup electric power.

(Click on thumbnail for enlargement in separate window.)


The nearly completed building (a) appears to consist of six identical functional units, presumably diesel generators. Each unit has two gray ventilator fans and a black duct. During construction, six tanks (c) were seen awaiting installation; these evidently are silencers for the generators. Later, exhaust pipes were being prepared (e). Later still, 12 fans (f) were standing by, perhaps for cooling and/or air intake.

At an early stage, subterranean passages (g) behind the future building were covered by a re-extension of the big shed (h). A month later, three large tanks (i), possibly for fuel, were delivered. Note that the tank has six outlets.

Last modified: April 28, 2016

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