The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent $25,000 on a soundproof phone booth in Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office preventing outsiders from eavesdropping on the agency chief’s communications, according to a Tuesday report from The Washington Post.
EPA officials signed a $24,570 contract earlier this summer with sound canceling company Acoustical Solutions for a “privacy booth for the administrator.” The agency sought a customized version that Pruitt can use to communicate without fear of being monitored, the report notes.
“Their main goal was they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view,” Steve Snider, a sales consultant with the company, told reporters about the EPA’s purchase. The deal was made this summer but is not expected to be completed until October.
Pruitt needs the added security to prevent hackers from gaining access to sensitive material, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told reporters.
“Federal agencies need to have one of these so that secured communications, not subject to hacking from the outside, can be held,” she said. “It’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). This is something which a number, if not all, Cabinet offices have and EPA needs to have updated.”
The agency uses a SCIF on a separate floor from the administrator’s office, where officials with security clearance can use the booth to share classified information. Bowman was noncommittal about whether the booth in Pruitt’s office fit the specifications of a SCIF.
Other government agencies have used similar technologies. Acoustical Solutions has built soundproof wall barriers at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in the past and installed a soundproofing wall and ceiling panels at the Department of State.
Leaks of memos and other communications have plagued the agency since the beginning of President Donald Trump’s presidency.
Agency employees, for instance, leaked a memo earlier this month reminding officials that they have a responsibility to protect sensitive information. The memo also details aspects of a weeklong anti-leaking training course.
The EPA was forced to deal with leaked memos earlier this year showing how much money Trump was considering cutting from the agency. A watchdog group based on Washington, D.C. obtained the memo in May laying out where the president will cut to fund $54 billion in defense spending.
Pruitt, for his part, has essentially beefed up the agency’s personal security detail that served past administrators. The detail now includes about 18 people to cover round-the-clock needs and his frequent travel schedule.
WATCH OUR TAKE ON PRUITT’S $25K “CONE OF SILENCE” HERE:
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