The Treasury Department has leased space for an emergency "relocation site" at the Airlie Foundation's Warrenton, Va., farm since 1963 at a rate that is 53.8 percent above the current rate the government pays for prime office space in downtown Washington.
Neither a Treasury official, who confirmed the lease, nor a spokesman for the nonprofit foundation, whose executive director is currently being investigated by a federal grand jury, would discuss details of a classified communications post that the department maintains at the farm.
However, a General Services Administration official, who asked not to be named, said the lease is for a "relocation site" where Treasury Department officials would moved in the event of an emergency that forced them to leave Washington. All of the government's major departments maintain such sites, the GSA official said.
Under terms of a lease first negotiated in 1963, the Treasury Department has paid the foundation $12,000 a year for the lease of 1,733 square feet of space at the farm. That rate comes to $6.92 a square foot, a ratetion spokesman Richard Q. Vawter said was "high for 1963.$
Typically, GSA, the government's landlord, is paying about $4.50 a square foot for commerical space in downtown Washington that is rented under long-term lease.
In response to questions, Vawter said it was difficult to compare the Airlie lease to Washington ones because the lease is classified "secret." He said he did'nt know what type of furnishings and materials came with the agreement, hut he said the sites must be able to be manned within a matter of hours.
A Treasury spokesman said the lease requires Airlie to provide the government with more than office space, but he declined to elaborate because the lease is classified.
Robert A. Merchant of Treasury's emergency planning staff, acknowledged the presence of a "small" communications operation at the farm and said that the operation had nothing to do with the groups that meet at Rirlie. Frank Kavanaugh, associate Airlie director, said the foundation did not seek the Treasury operation adn said he believed the government had selected the farm "because of the phsical location of Airlie." The farm is located 50 miles west of Washington.
A former high-level Treasury official said that apparently indicates that the communications post is linked to an emergency national command post in the Virginia mountains near the farm. The president and treasury secretary could go to the command post, called "The Mountain," in the event of a national emer-Washigton, the official said. gency that forced them to leave.
Airline executive director Murdock Head and several other members of his staff have been granted government security clearances because of the communications post, Kavanaugh said. He said he was given information on the operation "in a need-to-know basis" and could not discuss its function.
Head purposely has had "no access" to the post, Kavanaugh said, "so, if asked, he could not comment on it." Two individuals familiar with the Airlie operation have told a Washington Post reporter that the presence of the Treasury operation is well known to employes at the farm and that it is located in the basement of a restored Georgian mansion where Head makes his headquarters.
Despite the classified nature of the Treasury operation, its telephone number and the name of the official manning it are listed in the current Treasury Department telephone book. Kavanaugh said the listing was an error and said disclosure of the operation might force the governmet to move the operation elsewhere.
"All I can say is that we rent space," said Merchant Robert Boss, the "emergency planning specialist" assigned to the farm, declined to comment on what his duties there are.
A federal grand jury in Washington has begun probing contracts that various government agencies have had with the foundation and with an allied George Washington University Medical Center department which Heal also runs.
A former congressional aide to Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-Pa.) has been quoted in a court affidavit as saying that Head gave a total of $87,000 to the aide, Flood and former Rep. Otto Passman (D-La.) for their help in securing government contracts. Head has denied the charges.
A federal grand jury here has begun probing contracts that various government agencies have had with Head's foundation and an alleged George Washington University Medical Center department which Head runs.
The Washington Post has reported that a former congressional aide to Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-Pa.) told government investigators that Head gave him between $41,000 and $42,000 in the early 1970s for delivery to Flood and former Rep. Otto E. Passman (D-La.) in return for their help in securing government contracts. Recently, Stephen B. Elko, the aide, testified before the House Committee on standards of official conduct that Head was so meticulous about money destined for Passman that he would wrap the cash he gave Elko in tissue paper to avoid fingerprints.