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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 13:10 GMT
Revamp for West Wing crisis room
View of the refurbishment of the situation room
The new situation room will be wired up with hi-tech equipment
The White House situation room, where US presidents make war and peace, has been given a makeover.

Derided by Henry Kissinger, who called it "essentially oppressive", the White House is upgrading the wood-panelled communication hub for the internet age.

Muted fixtures and fittings largely unchanged since the 1960s are being replaced with high-definition TVs and modern communications equipment.

White House aides say it will open in January, and is running under budget.

Since work began in August, President George W Bush's national security team has been meeting in another building on the White House grounds.

Fact or fiction?

Set up by President John F Kennedy after the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba in 1961, the situation room is in fact much more than just a room.

Occupying a swathe of office space on the ground floor of the famous West Wing, it provides a focal point for the work of the national security council.

Map of White House's West Wing

Described as a place "where information is fused", the area is centred on the president's conference room.

That was most famously portrayed in the White House political drama The West Wing as a gizmo-packed national security wonderland, where Martin Sheen's President Bartlett could zoom in on an emerging crisis anywhere in the world.

But although it has been renovated regularly, the "sit room" has not received a comprehensive overhaul since the Kennedy era.

Wired for sound

White House officials say the current project is designed to "future-proof" the most important information hub in the US.

Twentieth-century communications equipment has been torn out, replaced by classified "plug and play" kit that can be transported onto Air Force One.
President Bush and aides during the Iraq war in 2003
The situation room has seen many moments of high tension
Banks of HD TV screens decorating the conference room will offer secure video links anywhere in the world.

Microphones and cameras are built in to the walls and tables, with helpful indicators telling loose-lipped leaders when recording is in progress.

Outside the conference room analysts will sift through real-time intelligence information on computers wired up to three monitors.

A "surge room" offers facilities for an instant meeting of senior security officials.

Homeland Security officers will find a new home in the heart of the situation room, improving communication in times of domestic crisis and moving them away from cramped quarters next to the men's toilets.

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