For Pentagon Christmas party, fill out form No. DD2798; permission may be denied
By PAULINE JELINEK
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Someone taped fake snow to the door of an Army Reserve office to create a winter scene. The Defense Intelligence Agency hung a 4-foot candy cane and the inspirational message, “Believe.”
For precisely three weeks a year, the Defense Department allows displays of holiday spirit on its premises, provided they conform to rules in the 12-page “Pentagon Guide for Use of Hallways.”
That means no candles, no shouting, no live Christmas trees, no loud music, no hanging things in the windows. “No lights in the hallways, no lights on the doors,” Pentagon Building Manager Michael J. Bryant said. “It’s safety-oriented — all the humbug stuff.”
It’s also mostly common sense. But the defense headquarters in suburban Washington is one of the world’s largest office buildings, with more than 17 miles of corridor and thousands and thousands of doors begging to be festooned with something.
Some 20,000 uniformed and civilian personnel work there, helping wage two foreign wars and manage the nation’s armed forces. Aside from that — and the fact that some of them wear combat boots to the office — they’re pretty much like other folks.
Some are like that neighbor who goes overboard every year with too many twinkling lawn figurines:
Somebody once stood a four-foot plastic Frosty the Snowman outside his office, violating the rule against blocking corridors.
Two soldiers asked for permission to dress in Santa suits and rappel from the Pentagon roof two years ago.
“It was Christmas and they thought it would be a nice thing to do,” said Bryant, who wished he could approve it.
“The problem with letting folks do that is then you’ve got Easter and the Easter Bunny wants to rappel, and you have Hanukkah and the Hanukkah guy wants to rappel, and once you start something, there’s no turning it off here,” he said.
OK, so there’s no “Hanukkah guy.” Still, he has a point.
Bryant’s office maintains safety and order in the halls and public areas; individual office heads are responsible for what goes on in their assigned spaces.
It’s impossible to know how many thousands of people are trimming Christmas trees, stringing lights and eating potluck lunches behind closed doors. But 28 groups got permission this December to hold holiday parties in the halls, after submitting form No. DD2798 — “Application/Permit for Use of Space on the Pentagon Reservation.”
It’s due two weeks before a party; must be approved by Bryant, as well as Pentagon fire, police and environmental officials, and must be accompanied by a scaled drawing showing where the event will be, how the food tables will be situated and where the nearest exits are.
“If the application/permit is disapproved, the reason will be stated on the permit and an opportunity will be given to correct the issue,” the rules say.
Sometimes no corrections are needed. This year the Navy has four 8-foot, fully decorated artificial trees in its corridor, skirting at least two rules. Someone gave them “a waiver,” was all Bryant would say, though he didn’t appear to approve.
Anyway, it’ll soon all be just another memory. Decorations may go up no earlier than the second Friday of December and must come down by the first Friday of January.
Until then, as Bryant says, it falls to his staff “to be the grinches.”
Published in The Messenger 12.17.07