The White House Situation Room officially completed its massive $50 million facelift on Friday, with President Biden cutting a blue ribbon to ceremoniously unveil the renovation.
The renovation changed the entirety of the 5,500-square foot multiroom complex within the West Wing of the White House, including the dismantling of the iconic conference room where President Barack Obama and his top aides watched the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. The Sit Room, as it is also called, is where other world developments, such as the North Korean missile launches and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are monitored and acted upon.
The overhaul also included digging five feet below ground to add technological and other changes, officials said.
Marc Gustafson, the National Security Council official in charge of the Sit Room, said the renovation took a year and was completed in August.
The Situation Room got its roots following the failed Bay of Pigs experiment in 1961, as President John Kennedy concluded the White House needed a centralized location to monitor world events.
The facility now provides round-the-clock surveillance where representatives from the intelligence community, all U.S. military branches and other agencies watch intelligence feeds and look over social media updates and videos.
A brand-new feature of the upgraded space is a large conference room, known as “WHSR JFK,” which includes leather-bound seating for 14 and video screens on the walls. WHSR stands for White House Situation Room and is pronounced “whizzer.”
Biden received an intelligence briefing Tuesday, using the new room for the first time, Gustafson said. He said the president “loved it.”
Biden, a frequent visitor to the Situation Room since taking office, sometimes drops in unannounced to join meetings and even has a special VIP entry door, Gustafson said.
Gustafson said the original conference room, memorialized in a 2011 photo of U.S. officials watching the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, was dismantled during the renovation, but its pieces were saved and were moved to Obama’s presidential library.
A phone booth that Biden and others had used while in the Situation Room was also removed. It is being stored for Biden’s future presidential library.
Reuters contributed to this report.