The Situation Room was created after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion during the Kennedy administration. President Kennedy felt he could no longer trust the information coming to him from the various areas of the national defense departments. As a way to ease the tensions and create a place for higher communication after the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy’s national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, created the Situation Room in May 1961. To create space for the Situation Room, President Truman’s bowling alley was removed.

President Kennedy ordered that every department of defense sector must feed their information to the Situation Room 24 hours a day. In the early days, a single CIA intelligence analyst worked a 20-hour shift in the Situation Room, sleeping there on a cot through the night.

Each president has used the Situation Room in different ways. Even though President Kennedy ordered its creation, he spent most the of his time during the Cuban Missile Crisis either in the Oval Office or in the Cabinet Room, though he would venture down to the Situation Room to read teletype. Lyndon Johnson used the Situation Room so frequently during the Vietnam War that he left his chair from the Oval Office in the room. Presidents Nixon and Ford rarely used the Situation Room, while George HW Bush and Bill Clinton used it often.

In 2006, the Situation Room went under a massive renovation to include the Homeland Security Council and the White House chief of staff’s office. In May 2011, after Navy SEALS shot and killed Osama Bin Laden, the Situation Room photo of President Obama and his national security team gravely monitoring the operation across the globe quickly became a defining image of that long night.

Tying together a half-century of history, President Obama renamed a secure conference room of the Situation Room on May 13, 2011 after President Kennedy. The president's daughter Caroline Kennedy attended, along with grandson, John "Jack" Schlossberg.

President Obama and staff wait for updates in the White House Situation Room

President Barack Obama and his national security team monitor the military operation resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011 in the White House Situation Room.

Students in the Situation Room Experience

Students assume the roles of the Executive Office of the President and the President’s Cabinet in order to manage a constitutional crisis in the Situation Room Experience at the Reagan Library in California and at the Bush Center in Dallas.