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Inside the White House: The Situation Room


♪♪(music playing)♪♪ (phone rings) Unidentified Speaker:
Good evening, Mr.
Prime Minister, it’ll be one moment
for President Obama. Introducing the Prime Minister. Mr. Harley:
We’re here in the West Wing of the White House inside the White House Situation Room. We host about 25 conferences a
day here in the Situation Room and some 250 guests attending
the different meetings throughout the day. In a month, that’s over 5,000
visitors and attendees to the different meetings
that we have here. It’s a state-of-the-art facility
— the ability to conduct video teleconferences with 1,700 or 1,800 entities throughout the world. Mr. Reed:
This is an interagency
meeting on the H1N1 pandemic, so it has interagency
representatives from the Executive Branch —
departments and agencies. They have the technology here
and the capability to bring in other departments and agencies
electronically as opposed to having folks face-to-face. Mr. Harley:
The White House Situation Room was created in May of 1961 by the then-National Security
Advisor McGeorge Bundy. They had a voracious
appetite for information, particularly President Kennedy. In response to that need, they
felt the desire to create a communications center here
within the White House. In 2007, the White House
Situation Room underwent a major renovation which greatly
expanded the square footage and the capabilities of the
White House Situation Room. It went from one principal
conference room to three principal conference rooms. This is the large conference
room where the President holds the National Security
Council meetings. This is the President’s chair. He controls the video options,
including the microphones. Now, the traditional lineup of
seats is based on the seniority of the different Cabinet
members attending the meeting. Tied to the Executive Conference
Room is a small breakout room designed to enable the President
to take one or two people into a conference room to have a small
one-on-one session with them. And all of the feel that you see
here — the types of wood — are designed to replicate the other entities at which the President would participate; places like Air Force One and Camp David, so that
wherever the President is, the feel is the same — having the same texture and sound around him. ♪♪(music playing)♪♪ One of the cool features of this
particular room in the White House Situation Room is the
opportunity to provide privacy for the President if he’s making
a Head of State phone call from the Situation Room itself. And what we’ll do is we’ll be
able to fog the windows to give him that level of privacy. So throughout the White
House Situation Room, you have a number of phone
tubes — or we call them “Superman tubes” — with the capability to have unclassified telephones as well as top
secret telephone capability. This is the “watch floor” of the
White House Situation Room and the watch floor’s commodity
is situational awareness. We’re a fusion center, meaning
that we fuse approximately 2,000 pieces of
information every day. We produce three daily reports
directly for the President and it’s basically a situational
awareness update, perhaps since the last time the
President had an opportunity to assimilate any
additional information. The room that you see behind me
is called the “surge room” and that’s where we literally
surge personnel in a crisis. We keep the phones and the computers always on so that we can provide instant access and start fusing information to provide a summary for the decision makers in the White House so that they can make the decisions in response to that situation or crisis. And hence the clever
name, Situation Room. One-third of the personnel come
from the Intelligence community, one-third come from the
Department of Homeland Security and the remainder come
from the U.S. military. We are sent here because
we’re apolitical — we’re not Democrats,
we’re not Republicans; we’re here to support our nation
and the President of the United States and the institution
of the presidency. And all of the people who work
in the White House Situation Room are simply the best and the
brightest that this nation can offer and they do the very
best job that they can do. ♪♪(music playing, sound
of door creaking shut)♪♪ Wolf Blitzer sits about
a mile away, I think, in his Situation Room, but not
the White House Situation Room.

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