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The Situation Room got a makeover. Here's what it looks like now

The famous Situation Room was overhauled, including the boardroom where the president and his advisers sit, and the command center where secure calls are coordinated.
Handout
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The White House
The famous Situation Room was overhauled, including the boardroom where the president and his advisers sit, and the command center where secure calls are coordinated.

In the bowels of the West Wing, there's a highly secure space where former President Barack Obama sat with his top advisers and watched in real time as U.S. special forces raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The area is known as the Situation Room, and over the past year, it has been overhauled and upgraded with more than $50 million in improvements to security and capabilities, and is ready to reopen for operations.

Literally everything was torn out from the conference room, the command center called the "watch floor" that supports it, and smaller rooms around them. The renovation extended five feet underneath the space, said Marc Gustafson, senior director for the White House Situation Room.

This is the "watch floor," a command center for the Situation Room where secure feeds are coordinated.
Handout / The White House
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The White House
This is the "watch floor," a command center for the Situation Room where secure feeds are coordinated.

Not many people have seen the new space, but Gustafson said people who have got a glimpse have said, "'Wow, this looks like the movies now.'"

Gustafson led a group of reporters on a rare tour of the space before it reopened. They were required to leave their phones, smartwatches and even fitness tracking devices outside.

Here's how the Situation Room looked before

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are briefed on efforts to counter ransomware on July 7, 2021, in the White House Situation Room.
Handout / The White House
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The White House
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are briefed on efforts to counter ransomware on July 7, 2021, in the White House Situation Room.

The space was last updated more than 15 years ago, during the George W. Bush administration, and had been showing its age from "significant wear and tear," Gustafson said.

It now features mahogany wood paneling alongside flat-screen monitors that can securely connect to any video feed or intelligence source the president and his team might need. The room feels both modern and traditional, which was the goal. It was "a tricky balance," said Gustafson, who helped coordinate the renovations.

Former President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials watch the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room on May 1, 2011.
The White House / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Former President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials watch the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room on May 1, 2011.

The precise space where Obama and his advisers sat is gone, replaced with two smaller breakout rooms where top officials can make calls and prepare their thoughts ahead of a meeting with the president.

Artifacts from the space will be shared with the Obama presidential library, and a glass phone booth was saved for a future Biden presidential library.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking news about global vaccine sharing and plans for distribution of vaccines to children under 12.
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