Camp David’s Purpose

signsA combined military and strategic planning base, it has been involved with US defenses since 1942. Today, the site is a strategy center and a Seabee base. Thirteen presidents and their families have lived at the Frederick, MD installation during its 72 years. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to arrive when the presidential yacht, Potomac, was hurriedly beached and a land base was found for the president. President Barack Obama and his wife and two daughters are the current occupants.

A former Civilian Conservation  Corps(CCC) camp it was transplanted to Maryland, and the 125 acre area has been a secret location until the latter days of World War II. It was used as a training headquarters for those who were to carry out dangerous esponiage behind German lines. Security was penetrated by a society reporter, of all people, enraging FDR.

Camp David is the carefully documented story of the staffers and military families culled from thousands of APS clippings and AP  stories of those who were at the base. Bill King, a Camp David manager, said the Cuban Missle Crisis was his most exciting experience on duty. “Earlier presidents with the possible exception of Kennedy, Ford and Johnson saw Camp David as a great place to spend time.” The aide continued: “In 1993, Clinton vacationed five times. He had, by contrast, visited the camp 10 times in the first four months of the second term.”

Lyndon Johnson, said author Dale Nelson in his interesting book The President Is At Camp David,  claimed that Vice President Johnson thought the camp was an excellent place for the number of government  meetings held weekly. He visited the place occasionally. Base personnel, however, performed many  kinds of missions. “­I was assigned as a fishing guide and worked with Eddie Bauer, the hardware guy,” he laughed.

What will interest the average reader? The fact that Camp David is loosely budgeted and while the public is not permitted to be on the premises, the estimated cost of security annually is over $100 million and climbing. Most bureaucrats continue to complain about  excessive expenditures but little has been done to arrest the cost of the base. Furthermore, media have to be “approved” to be able to obtain interviews and get on the grounds. To some news people, the more spending, the less information about costs.

At the same time, news media have shown no urgency about getting important questions about costs at the camp answered.  My work on this subject goes back to Nikita Khrushev and his meeting with President Dwight Eisenhower and the first meeting at a place called Camp David. I was invited to the White House for several press conferences during the Reagan Administration, but I found the door closed to Camp David.