"Is there any gold in Fort Knox?" was one of the most frequently asked questions I got when I was the director of the U.S. Mint.
The answer is yes.
The U.S. Bullion Depository, commonly known as Fort Knox, was built to accommodate the dramatic increase in gold reserves resulting from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's controversial executive order in 1933. The gold reserves of the United States from 1933 to 1937 increased threefold to approximately $12 billion because Americans were forced to sell their gold coins to the Federal Reserve and accept bank notes instead.
Completed in 1936 on land transferred from the U.S. Army, it took more than 500 train cars to deliver the existing gold bullion, newly made bullion bars from the melted coins and some gold coins. They came mostly from Philadelphia and the New York Assay Office.
A minority of the bars were made from the melted coins and have a tarnished appearance because the coins were only 90 percent pure gold. They measure 7 inches by 3-5/8 inches by 1-3/4 inches and weigh 400 ounces (27.5 pounds). The majority of the bars are standard 400 ounce good delivery bars.
While the gold stored at Fort Knox peaked during World War II at slightly more than 20,000 tons, there is approximately 4,500 tons of gold stored there today. But that is not the entire sum of the gold reserves of the United States. The rest of it resides at the U.S. Mint at Denver (1,400 tons) and at West Point (1,700 tons) and in the deep storage vaults of the New York Federal Reserve (400 tons).
The gold at Fort Knox is stored in one of the most secure facilities in the world. It is surrounded by an active U.S. Army fort, guarded by the U.S. Mint Police and protected by layers of security measures, including a blast proof 22-ton door, 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforcing steel and 670 tons of structural steel. The gold has remained in deep storage and has been mostly undisturbed through the decades.
In 1953, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the General Accounting Office (representing Congress) conducted a full audit of the gold at Fort Knox. Each bar was removed, documented and cross-referenced. Five percent of the gold was randomly assayed. The gold was put back bar by bar and each of the 13 vaults carefully resealed.
In 1974, then-Mint Director Mary Brooks led the first-ever public tour of the classified facility. The 120 visitors included members of Congress and the news media. Because the United States went off the gold standard in 1971, the American public became skeptical of whether Fort Knox contained any gold. When the delegation was satisfied, the vaults were again carefully sealed.
Each of the years I was Mint Director, the Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Mint conducted an audit of the gold in Fort Knox. Each of the vaults is sealed with a special tape that is designed to show any forced entry. The audits since the last full audit in 1953 have been mainly checking to make sure the seal has not been broken or tampered with and a visual inspection of the gold through each of the vault doors.
In addition, I visited Fort Knox at least once a year to do town hall meetings with all the employees. I was given the full tour and briefing the first year I visited and did occasional visual inspections with my team after that. I can confirm that the gold remained undisturbed during my five-year tenure as director.
There has been a trend among the citizens of several countries to demand that a full audit be conducted of their gold reserves, including the United States. My friend and former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has been the main torchbearer for this request. It would take an act of Congress or a Treasury crisis of confidence to have a full audit performed. Thus far, no bill has passed and the Treasury has full confidence in their audits.
To satisfy critics, a new audit would document each bar like the 1953 audit and assay 100 percent of the gold bars. That would require 400 people working full-time for six months to drill holes in each bar, test them for purity and document properly. The cost would range between $15 million and $60 million. The vaults would be sealed again until another public outcry.
Is there gold in Fort Knox? I have seen it with my own eyes. But I am not confirming or denying that I'm part of a conspiracy.
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