The Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator’s conversations just got a whole lot more private.
The EPA has reportedly signed a nearly $25,000 contract for a soundproof booth for administrator Scott Pruitt. The contract was signed with Acoustical Solutions, a company that sells a range of sound and privacy products.
According to the Washington Post, soundproof booths of this kind are generally used for hearing tests. However, the booth ordered for Pruitt is a more costly customized version that will enable him to “communicate privately.” The booth includes a secure computer and phone room, which blocks sound from passing inside out as well as outside in.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the Washington Post that cabinet offices require such booths to protect against hacking and eavesdropping. Yet others have noted that the office never had a secure booth previously as the EPA contains a secure facility on a separate floor, and have called attention to the secretive measures taken by Pruitt and his deputies.
Pruitt has reportedly asked employees to surrender mobile phones before meeting in his office, and is often found accompanied by armed guards. He has been reported to avoid emails and written communications, favoring face-to-face meetings. And he is the first EPA administrator to have round-the-clock security—previous administrators only had a security detail when working or in transit.
In an era when cabinet officials try to use a government jet for their honeymoon though, $25,000 for a soundproof booth doesn’t sound quite so outrageous.