Amidst increasing tension and protests in the U.S. over police violence and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, U.S. President Donal Trump was swiftly relocated on Friday night to the bunker underneath the White House, known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC).
While information is, for obvious reasons, largely classified, we do know a few things about the place where, as per the Associated Press, Trump “spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks.”
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The origins of the White House's top-secret bunker
The first White House bunker was built during the Second World War in order to protect President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the event of aerial attacks on Washington.
The modern PEOC, which resides under the East Wing of the White House, has been updated continuously. Notably, it received a construction overhaul as part of renovation work done in 1950 at the time of President Harry S. Truman's presidency.
During Truman's presidency, the bunker had to be adapted for the new threat of nuclear war and was likely constructed deeper into the ground than its predecessor.
The modern Presidential Emergency Operations Center
How deep down did President Trump go on Friday? While specifics about the PEOC are highly classified, we do know that, as per the Union of Concerned Scientists, the highest yield nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal today can blast up to 1,000 feet deep. Therefore, it's safe to assume that the presidential bunker must be at least that deep. Whether President Trump stooped to such literal depths is impossible to tell.
The most noteworthy use of the PEOC, other than President Trump's use of it last week amidst the ongoing protests, was on September 11, 2001. Though President George W. Bush was in Florida at the time of the terrorist attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and several other high ranking officials were evacuated from their offices in the White House to the PEOC. Pictures of that time, from within the PEOC, have been released by the U.S. National Archives.
The modern PEOC is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment that allows the President to communicate with government officials outside. In the event of any White House security breach, and any violation of the Washington, D.C. Air Defense Identification Zone (P-56 airspace), the President and other protesters will be relocated to the executive briefing room, next to the PEOC.
Every day, the PEOC is manned around the clock by joint-service military officers and non-commissioned officers.
One part of the U.S. government's large network of bunkers
Understandably, a little more is known about other government-commissioned bunkers throughout the U.S.
Project Greek Island was a United States government continuity program that started in the 1950s when the U.S. government approached the Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia to build a bunker under its premises to prepare for the relocation of the entire U.S. Congress under exceptional circumstances. The project used a cut-and-cover style construction method to burrow deep into the ground.
The Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado is a bunker with a command center that was renovated for $13 million in 2004 and a 25-ton blast door at its main entrance that opens onto another blast door.
As per NPR, following September 11, Dick Cheney went to another bunker in the U.S. network. It was "“one of several Cold War-era nuclear-hardened subterranean bunkers built during the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, the nearest of which were located hundreds of feet below bedrock in places such as Mount Weather, in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, and along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border not far from Camp David.”
While little concrete information is available to the public about the White House's PEOC bunker, as it houses the President of the United States, it is likely the most secure of the U.S. government's entire network of bunkers.