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Things That Exist, Vol. 3: The Capitol Flag Program

I feel like I'm on my computer constantly, poring through hundreds of feeds and stories daily, spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of legal blogs and information you deserve. But I definitely miss a lot of things that everyone else seems to know about -- the type of things where I can only scratch my head and say, "Really?!? They have that? Never heard of it." 

Today's thing I never knew existed: The Capitol Flag Program

I was minding my business reading the Jonathan Turley blog about the $1,200 per "resolution" our government is spending in order to have officially observed "Days" such as "National Pi Day" or "National Beverage Day." Then I noticed a comment by someone called "Frankly" that read:

Pffffffffffffffffffffffffttttt – whats $300k? I bet they spend more getting ice delivered to their offices every day (you do know that each congresscritter gets ice delivered to their offices every day, right?). Or how about the cost of having two GSA employees raise & lower flags every 30 seconds on the Capitol building so that they can provide "flags flown over the US Capitol" to the folks back home?

What?? There are two people working for the government at the Capitol whose job is to raise and lower flags every 30 seconds? For real?

I set out to see if I could verify this and found that, indeed, there actually is something called the Capitol Flag Program that exists for this purpose. According to its website, the Capitol Flag Program began in 1937 when a Member of Congress requested a flag that had flown over the Capitol. Requests from members of the Senate and House for Capitol flags rapidly outgrew the supply of flags that were flown over the Capitol in the normal course of events, so an office called the Flag Office of the Architect of the Capitol was created to create some additional supply:

Flags are flown daily year-round, weather permitting, excluding Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. There are special flag poles where all flags are flown. After it is flown over the Capitol, each flag is issued a keepsake Certificate of Authenticity by the Architect of the Capitol. Currently, the Architect of the Capitol fulfills on average more than 100,000 flag requests from Members of Congress annually, with the number of requests and the popularity of the Capitol Flag Program growing steadily each year.

According to an article from back in 2002 in The Telegraph, the Capitol Flag Program has 20 employees whose job revolves around hoisting flags up and down on the roof of the Capitol. On the one-year anniversary of September 11, the team met on the Capitol roof at midnight "in a vain attempt to meet the demand for flags that flew on September 11" and raised and lowered 8,000 flags over the next 21 hours. The Flag Office of the Architect of the Capitol told The Telegraph that it was "out of the question" for a reporter to watch the flag-raising.

How does this Flag Office raise and lower so many flags each day (other than having strong arms, I suppose)? The tricks of the trade reportedly include "special short flagpoles," covered poles for rainy days, and the fact that each flag is hoisted for just a few seconds.

Posted by Bruce Carton on June 8, 2012 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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