In 2010, tall fences went up outside the West Wing of the White House and a massive construction project was underway.
Officially, the construction project was described as a much-needed infrastructure systems replacement.
The massive scope of the project, described as a "sprawling, multistory structure whose underground assembly required truckloads of heavy-duty concrete and steel beams",
led to many questions and conspiracy theories. Was this a new presidential command center housing its own massive communications data center? One official stated off the record "It is security-related construction."
In 2007, a nondescript white building was constructed adjacent to the West Wing. The building is visible in the photo below, located on the far right. During the
George W. Bush Administration, this mysterious building did not officially exist. No one asked about the sudden arrival of the building and no explanations were given.
There was some speculation that this temporary building housed a data center with communications equipment. The building was removed at some point during the West Wing construction project perhaps with its equipment relocated below ground.
The first photo below shows the West Wing construction area in 2010 with the secret white building visible above ground. The second photo shows the completed construction area at the end of 2012 with the white building removed.
Work first began on the secret White House underground tunnel system back in early 1950 under the Truman administration.
The White House was deteriorating and it was determined that massive reconstruction was required.
President Truman relocated to the nearby Blair House for three years while the interior of the White House was completely rebuilt with concrete and steel beams.
During that time, a tunnel was built connecting the West Wing and East Wing providing access to the bomb shelter.
In 1987, another secret tunnel was built during the Reagan Administration to protect the President in the event of a terrorist attack. This new tunnel allows the President to access a secret staircase outside the Oval Office by pressing on a wall panel to reveal and open a secret door. The passageway at the bottom of the stairs leads to a closet near the President's private elevator in the basement of the Residence.
There is also a known tunnel leading from the basement of the East Wing to the basement of the Treasury Building which was built by FDR as an air raid shelter. An underground passageway provides pedestrian access between the White House and the Old Executive Office Building next door. There are rumors of tunnels connecting the White House to the Capitol, Blair House, VP Residence, Camp David and the Pentagon, but these are unsubstantiated at this time.
Photos from Truman Library
The PEOC was built by FDR below ground under the East Wing to provide the President with a secure meeting place in the event
of an emergency. While the exact specification of this underground presidential bunker is classified, it was originally built to withstand a direct nuclear hit. Access to the PEOC is by an elevator located behind multiple vault-type doors with biometric access control systems.
On September 11, 2001, President Bush met with his National Security Council in the PEOC bunker. Photos of this secret location were published by the National Archives showing details of this extraordinary gathering. In her 2010 memoir, First Lady Laura Bush describes her 9/11 experience of going through a pair of big steel doors to access an unfinished subterranean hallway underneath the White House on her way to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center conference room which was adjacent to the PEOC’s nerve center.
Photos from National Archives
The White House Visitor Access records provide detailed information about visitors to the White House. Records with a Description field containing "peoc", "shelter" or "executive briefing room"
and/or records with the Meeting_Room field containing "peoc" or "ebr" provide information related to PEOC visitors.