By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House conference room where President Barack Obama and his top aides watched the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been dismantled as part of a just-completed major renovation of the “Situation Room” complex. The $50 million refresh of the legendary space, which comprises an entire multiroom […]
White House completes $50 million upgrade to famed ‘Situation Room’ complex
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House conference room where President Barack Obama and his top aides watched the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been dismantled as part of a just-completed major renovation of the “Situation Room” complex.
The $50 million refresh of the legendary space, which comprises an entire multiroom complex deep within the West Wing of the White House, included digging five feet below ground to make modern technological and other changes, officials said on a rare tour for reporters on Thursday.
Marc Gustafson, the National Security Council official in charge of the Sit Room, as it is also known, said the renovation of the 5,500-square foot space where world developments from North Korean missile launches to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are monitored and acted upon, took a year and was completed in August.
The conference room memorialized in a 2011 photo of US officials watching the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, where he lived after masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was taken apart during the renovation and is being stored for use at Obama’s presidential library, Gustafson said.
The Situation Room dates from the aftermath of the 1961 Bay of Pigs drama, when President John Kennedy concluded the White House needed a central location to monitor world events.
It now provides round-the-clock surveillance from a low-lit room where representatives from the intelligence community, all U.S. military branches and other agencies work 12-hour shifts watching feeds of intelligence, social media updates and video.
A phone booth that President Joe Biden and others had used while in the Situation Room was also removed and is being stored for Biden’s future presidential library.
The main feature of the upgraded space is a large conference room, known as “WHSR JFK,” where WHSR stands for White House Situation Room, but is pronounced ‘whizzer.’ It includes leather-bound seating for 14 and video screens on the walls.
Biden used it for the first time on Tuesday when he received an intelligence briefing, Gustafson said, adding: “He loved it.”
Gustafson’s own office within the space features glass walls that fog up to provide some privacy for meetings.
Biden has been a frequent visitor to the Situation Room since taking power, sometimes dropping in unannounced to join meetings, as he did in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine, Gustafson said.
He and Vice President Kamala Harris enter through a special VIP entry door. The official seal for the president, vice president and National Security Council is placed on the wall to designate the most senior official in the room at the time.
(Reporting By Steve Holland, editing by Deepa Babington)