WASHINGTON — The White House Situation Room, the nerve center for a president’s most sensitive national security meetings, has a new look and new capabilities after a yearlong renovation.
Despite its name, the Situation Room is not a single room but instead a sprawling 5,500-square-foot complex with numerous meeting spots, all of which were gutted and refurbished at a cost of $50 million. A smaller room, where former President Barack Obama and top officials monitored the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, was preserved in its entirety and sent to the Obama library.
Marc Gustafson, the White House director for the Situation Room, told reporters during a tour of the facility Thursday that the renovation was needed because of “heavy wear and tear” over the last 16 years, since the last big face-lift in 2007.
President Joe Biden saw the finished project this week and “loved it,” Gustafson said, adding that Biden has already had an intelligence briefing there. The Situation Room should be fully operational for calls with heads of state in the coming days, Gustafson said.
National security officials said they used other spaces throughout the West Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for calls with foreign leaders and other communications while the Situation Room was under construction.
The main room — known as the JFK Conference Room, because the secure communications suite was built during the Kennedy administration after the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 — consists of a giant wooden table with 12 chairs on two sides and one at the head for the president, the vice president or the national security adviser. It also has screen panels for projections on one wall.
The conference room that was used to monitor the bin Laden raid was turned into two smaller breakout rooms. Both are about the size of a walk-in closet.
All contractors who worked on the project had to get varying degrees of security clearance, officials said, because they were dealing with highly sensitive information.