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 major renovation of the Situation Room complex just completed.
The $50 million revamp of the legendary space, which includes an entire multi-room complex deep in the West Wing of the White House, involved digging five feet underground to accommodate modern technology and other changes, officials said on a rare tour Thursday. for reporters.
Marc Gustafson, the National Security Council official responsible for the Sit Room, as it is also known, said the renovation of the 5,500-square-foot space that has hosted global developments, from North Korean missile launches to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are followed and acted upon. took a year and was completed in August.
The conference room, which was memorialized in a 2011 photo of US officials watching the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan where he lived after masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks, was taken apart during the renovation and being stored for use in Obama’s presidential building. library, said Gustafson.
The Situation Room dates back to the aftermath of the 1961 Bay of Pigs drama, when President John Kennedy concluded that the White House needed a central location to monitor world events.
It now provides round-the-clock surveillance from a dimly lit room where representatives of the intelligence community, all U.S. military branches and other agencies work 12 hours a day, watching intelligence feeds, social media updates and video.
A phone booth that President Joe Biden and others had used in the Situation Room was also removed and is being saved for Biden’s future presidential library.
The main feature of the remodeled 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 first used it on Tuesday when he received an intelligence briefing, Gustafson said, adding: “He loved it.”
Gustafson’s own office in the space features glass walls that fog up to provide some privacy during meetings.
Biden has been a frequent visitor to the Situation Room since taking power, sometimes stopping by unannounced to attend 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 highest-ranking official in the room at the time.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Deepa Babington)