In honor of Energy Action Month, marked in October, President Obama has asked federal agencies and senior administration officials to lead the way in demonstrating the government’s own efforts to be sustainable.
The Pentagon, one of the world’s largest office buildings, is happy to comply. On Sept. 29, Michael J. Bryant, the building manager for the five-sided complex which is home to 17.5 miles of corridors and 16,250 light fixtures, alerted Department of Defense workers that building managers would be reducing light levels throughout different parts of the building until Oct. 31.
What the memo, obtained by TIME, doesn’t say is that the lights in the hallways where the military’s leadership, including Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, works would continue to burn bright throughout the month.
“More or less everyone is in the darkness expect for the top generals and senior appointees,” said one Pentagon employee.
On Wednesday, one day after TIME sent an inquiry about the lighting inequities, the Pentagon created its own press release extolling the benefits of walking through the dark halls. “If we can save some money without having an impact on mission, we should do it,” a Pentagon official told its own news service. The article did not mention that the halls in the so-called E-ring, the Pentagon’s outermost layer where senior leadership work, were still burning bright.
Meanwhile a Pentagon spokesman told TIME there was nothing to see here.
“The goal was to create a visible demonstration that would raise awareness of the need for energy conservation without impacting mission,” said Maj. Eric Badger. “Washington Headquarter Services indicated that the E-Ring, due to its lack of daylight, should not be part of the exercise.”
Most offices and corridors in the building’s interior have access to direct sunlight, Badger said, which is why they were selected to be dimmed in the first place. None of the lights in offices or suites were dimmed.
Even if some top generals decide to start dimming the hall lights in solidarity, they won’t be left in the dark. On a site about touring the Pentagon, the military notes, “‘E-Ring offices are the only ones with outside views.”
The Pentagon’s energy action is a work in progress. Aside from issuing the new press release, they’re also turning the lights on in areas of the building that were too dark.
“Most areas reduced to low lighting are sunlight accessible,” Maj. Badger said in an e-mail. “Areas not accessible to sunlight are being evaluated and restored when necessary due to safety purposes and/or mission requirements.”
- TIME's Top 100 Photos of 2021
- Inside Frances Haugen's Decision to Take on Facebook
- Why We Should Stop Freaking Out About Inflation
- Austria's Plan to Make COVID-19 Vaccines Compulsory Is Dividing Citizens — and Experts
- Inside the 80-Year Quest to Name Pearl Harbor's Unknown Victims
- Buying a House Feels Impossible These Days. Here Are 6 Innovative Paths to Homeownership
- 'They're Very Close.' U.S. General Says Iran Is Nearly Able to Build a Nuclear Weapon
- A Charter School's Racial Controversy Reveals the Real Battle For America's Classrooms