The Environmental Protection Agency reportedly spent nearly $25,000 on a soundproof phone booth for the office of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. It is not known why the specific booth was needed or why it had such a hefty price tag.
The EPA signed a $24,570 contract over the summer for a "privacy booth for the administrator," The Washington Post reported. According to the contract, the booth is set to be completed on Oct. 9.
The company contracted to install the booth, Acoustical Solutions, is known for creating equipment such as large-scale sound booths typically used for hearing tests. The EPA allegedly requested a custom model that costs several times more than a standard installation.
"They had a lot of modifications," one of the company's sales consultants, Steve Snider, told The Washington Post. "Their main goal was they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping."
Preventing leaks has been a high priority for the Trump administration, and Pruitt is known for being careful. He has 18 personal bodyguards providing round-the-clock coverage for him. According to The Washington Post, the additional special agents needed for his security detail would otherwise serve as environmental crime investigators.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said the phone booth was a necessary piece of government equipment for secure communication.
"It’s called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF)," she wrote in a statement. "This is something which a number, if not all, Cabinet offices have and EPA needs to have updated."
Former EPA workers told The Washington post the agency had a SCIF on a separate floor from the administrator's office. The EPA has yet to specify which parts of the communication security system need to be updated and whether Pruitt's new unit satisfies SCIF requirements.
In addition to Pruitt's security spending, his travel spending has also raised questions. CBS News reported on several instances of expensive flights taken by the EPA administrator.
On June 7, Pruitt went on a trip to Cincinnati with President Donald Trump and then spent $20,000 worth of taxpayer money on a flight to New York's JFK Airport on an Air Force jet. He then went on an international flight to Italy for a conference for which he arrived three days early and left one day early.
Pruitt also reportedly flies to his home state of Oklahoma so frequently the EPA's inspector general has taken notice.
On Aug. 4, Pruitt reportedly rejected the Colorado governor's office's offer of a flight from Denver to Durango, Colorado, in favor of taking another private flight.
"There needs to be an explanation of what that cost was and why it was necessary," said Eric Schaeffer, former director of the EPA's Office of Civil Enforcement. "Especially when the budget is shrinking for your agency, the expectation is that you'll travel as economically as possible. Generally that does not include chartering private jets for your travel."