May 13th, 2011
03:23 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the White House Situation Room today by naming a secure conference room after President John F. Kennedy, delivering remarks and thanking staffers for their “around-the-clock” work.
“We could not meet the national security challenges that we face without the capabilities of this room and the people who work here,” the president said, according to a release sent out by the White House press office. “It’s the President’s eyes and ears. Providing the latest information and alerts, it’s the nerve center for the U.S. government, the place where we come together to make policy and respond to crises from wars abroad to floods at home," he said.
Built in 1961 by the Kennedy administration after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, the Situation Room is more than just the iconic executive conference room often seen in photos.
After a 2007 renovation, the West Wing’s Sit Room was expanded, and is now a 5,000 square foot complex that hosts some 250 guests in approximately 25 conferences a day.
In total, there are 3 conference rooms, a break-out room for small, one-on-one sessions, a private office with windows that fog over for privacy, a ‘watch room’ where staffers fuse together some 2,000 pieces of information a day for three daily situational updates delivered to the president, and a ‘surge room’ for use during a crisis.
Throughout the Sit Room are futuristic phone booths that staffers call ‘Superman tubes,’ where staffers can make both unclassified as well as top secret calls.
The look of the Situation Room is replicated to match to the president’s working environments on Air Force One and Camp David. The consistency in atmosphere and materials are so the “feel is the same” for the president.
One third of Sit Room staffers are from the Department of Homeland Security, a third are from the intelligence community, and the rest work in the U.S. military. They are neither Republicans nor Democrats, and are not political appointees.
Watch a video tour of the Situation Room HERE.
Here is a list, provided by the White House, of those who were in attendance in Friday’s ceremony.
John "Jack" Schlossberg
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon
Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan
Former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger
Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski
Former National Security Advisor Richard Allen
Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane
Former National Security Advisor John Poindexter
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger
Former National Security Advisor James Jones
Former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend
Former Homeland Security Advisor Kenneth Wainstein