On May 9, I wrote a post about a massive construction project going on in the grounds of the White House which is shielded from the public eye.
The official word is that the construction is a long overdue upgrading and laying down of pipes and wires. But the project is not only HUGE, involving much steel and concrete, it will go on for three years and won’t be completed until 2014, at an estimated cost of $375 million. Conspiracy theory rumors of the construction of a secret underground bunker are dismissed because there is already a steel bunker on the east side of the White House.
Here’s AP correspondent Mark Smith:
I’d forgotten all about the project until reader Traci Lee Sommerville wrote a comment on July 1, expressing her wish that “someone would do an update on this.”
Since no reporter seems to have followed up on this, I decided to see what I can do.
The construction project is in the White House grounds, which makes it fall under the purview of the General Services Administration (GSA). I sent an e-mail to Sharon Lighton, asking for information on the construction project by invoking my right to know under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Lighton is in charge of the GSA’s FOIA queries.
I heard nothing from Lighton until about two weeks later when I received an e-mail notifying me that she had referred my request to Toni L. Slappy — a program analyst at the GSA’s Internal Resources Division. Ms. Slappy was courteous and said she would look into the matter.
Several weeks went by. I got another e-mail from Slappy informing me that she’s still working on it. By mid-August, just when I had about written off Slappy – presto! – came an e-mail from her, giving me clear and detailed instructions on how to access the information on the GSA website. I followed her instructions and this is what I found:
To begin, the official name of the construction project is “West and East Wing Infrastructure Systems Replacement – Phase I“. Yikes! It’s only Phase I! How many other phases are there?
Sometime around September 2, 2009, the GSA put out a notice (Solicitation number GS-11P-09-MKC-0122) inviting qualified contractors to submit bids for the project. This is the Synopsis of the project — the only description I was able to find on the GSA website:
“The General Services Administration (GSA) intends to issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc) to perform construction services on the West and East Wing Infrastructure Systems Replacement project in Washington, DC. This is a classified project and each offeror shall possess the appropriate facility clearance and safeguarding capability in order to be considered eligible to bid upon this project and be issued a solicitation package. It is anticipated that classified technical data and documentation, up to the level of Top Secret will be utilized. The project is anticipated to be awarded in January 2010 and will be performed in three Phases with each subsequent Phase extending services and systems of the entire project. The estimated construction cost range of the entire project is $150 to $300 million dollar. GSA intends to negotiate the award of a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) Contract for the Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc) Services. All work will be performed in accordance with GSA authorized and approved standards. The selection process will utilize source selection procedures in accordance with FAR Part 15.3. The selection procedure will employ tradeoffs and the technical/management factors are considered to be significantly more important than price and price related factors.
On January 22, 2010, GSA awarded the construction contract to Grunley Construction Co., Inc., 15020 Shady Grove Rd Suite 500, Rockville, Maryland 20850. The contract award dollar amount, consisting “of a Base and three (3) Options” (whatever that means), was for a total amount of $97,821,032.
The good news is that the contract award is $52,178,968 less than the minimum estimated construction cost of $150,000,000. Looks like someone at the GSA was doing his/her job, watching out for the taxpayer.
The bad news is that we still don’t know what this humongous construction project is about, other than that it is a CLASSIFIED project that is not just classified, it is TOP SECRET!!!!
So much for the Freedom of Information Act. LOL
UPDATE (Oct. 20, 2011):
The UK’s Daily Mail has an article on the secretive construction project. Click here!