Leaders of eight of the world’s largest economies are meeting at Camp David this evening for the G-8 Summit, marking the biggest gathering of heads of state at the president’s country retreat in history.
The rustic estate in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, however, presents something of a logistical challenge for the White House as it seeks to accommodate all of the leaders and their staffs.
Before your mind wanders to those summer camp memories of bunk bed-filled cabins, the Obama administration assures there are “adequate facilities” for each delegation. But who sleeps where? And how were the arrangements decided?
“The allocation system, of course, is classified,” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon jokingly told reporters Thursday.
“The summit is intended to be small and intimate, and the President made a conscious decision to host the G8 meeting at Camp David for this reason. Each head of state or government will have his or her own cabin and they’ll have the opportunity, obviously, to meet informally on the margins of the meetings and to take full advantage of the grounds at Camp David,” he said.
President Obama was originally slated to host the summit in his hometown of Chicago, but announced in March that he was moving the meetings to Camp David.
The country retreat, known formally as the Naval Support Facility Thurmont, is a large complex, but not all of the buildings are the same size. Several of the scattered cabins are just one room and a bathroom.
Donilon assured reporters that the delicate arrangements were carefully planned. White House deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and George Mulligan of the White House Military Office were enlisted to help with the details, he said.
“There are adequate facilities there for each delegation, each head of state to have his or her cabin, as I said, and for each to be accompanied by a key staff person and in some cases two or three staff people,” Donilon said.
“Maybe we could get… a deeper briefing on this stuff,” he added laughing. “I’m as interested in it as you are.”
The president himself does not visit his country home often. Today will mark his 23rd visit to Camp Dave, according to unofficial White House historian CBS’ Mark Knoller.
Camp David, named after President Eisenhower’s grandson, has hosted foreign dignitaries in the past. The 1978 summit that President Jimmy Carter held for Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin resulted in what are now known as the Camp David Accords.
Asked if it was a little rustic for heads of state, Donilon quipped “I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. I never had a lawn bigger than three feet in front of my house, so… I’m not really the one to comment on rustic.”
While the G-8 leaders are busy tackling global issue like the European debt crisis at Camp David, First Lady Michelle Obama will host their spouses at the White House for a tour and “intimate lunch” catered by famed celebrity chef Jose Andres, according to the White House.