The Washington Post

The White House situation room: Not just for crises anymore

One in an occasional series of observational pieces keyed off the White House daily briefing.

The fact that President Obama has chosen to discuss the issue of cybersecurity with top American business executives in the Situation Room is not cause for panic.

They just ran out of spaces to meet in the White House.

That's the message White House spokesman Jay Carney delivered during his Wednesday briefing, after explaining the president would huddle with CEOs including Honeywell International's David Cote, Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Wes Bush and AT&T's Randall Stephenson.

Here's how it went down:

A reporter asked Carney whether there was a specific reason the group was meeting in a room usually reserved for discussing terrorism threats and other national security matters

Carney replied:

"I appreciate the question. I know it sounds super cool, but as those of you who are familiar with the West Wing, it is an amazingly small space. And when the Roosevelt Room is occupied with a meeting, as in the case, at the same time, the options are few for a meeting of any size that would exceed, say, my office. So the Situation Room is being utilized, as it is frequently, for that kind of meeting. It's not -- it's not related to -- it's not related to the subject. And we have meetings there on occasion on different topics that are not related to national security issues or classified matters."

So take a deep breath, and remember that the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. isn't as big as it looks on TV.  Seriously -- check out the West Wing floor plan.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



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Juliet Eilperin · March 13, 2013

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