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Boris Johnson will get £9m White House-style ‘situation centre’

Boris Johnson will get £9m White House-style ‘situation centre’ to command terror emergencies and military operations

  • £9million ‘Situation Centre’ room being installed in basement of Cabinet Office
  • The state-of-the-art facility will be used to brief Boris Johnson and his ministers
  • Goverment sources said need for a better hub exposed by the coronavirus crisis 

Boris Johnson is getting a £9million White House-style ‘situation room’ to command terror emergencies and military operations.

The state-of-the-art bunker in the basement of the Cabinet Office will have huge display screens allowing the PM to track events in real time. 

It will be known as the Situation Centre, or SitCen, and should be up and running this summer – with claims it will reduce the time taken to brief ministers from ‘weeks to minutes’.

The plan is a centrepiece of the huge defence, security and foreign policy review due to be unveiled by Mr Johnson on March 16. 

No10 sources told the Sunday Times coronavirus had exposed the need for ministers have access to more real-time data.

‘Cobra is just a room with three clocks on the wall and a table,’ one source said. 

Boris Johnson holds his regular Cabinet meeting by video link in Downing Street last week

£2.6m refurb so No10 can hold White House-style press briefings 

Downing Street has spent more than £2.6million on refurbishments so the Prime Minister can hold White House-style press briefings, it has emerged.   

An extensive overhaul within No 9 Downing Street began last year when the Government announced plans to hold the televised briefings. 

In response to a Freedom of Information request by the PA news agency, the Cabinet Office issued a breakdown of the costs totalling £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

It said the funds had been spent to allow daily broadcasting by news organisations within the Grade-I listed building.

‘This will necessarily require one-off capital works, including audio-visual equipment, internet infrastructure, electrical works and lighting,’ the response said.

By contrast, SitCen will be staffed round the clock by ‘watchkeeper’ staff from the National Security Secretariat.

They will be responsible for ‘horizon scanning’ to identify threats to national security. 

A huge volume of information will be supplied by the Joint Intelligence Committee, Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre and other Whitehall experts. 

Ministers will be briefed with a combination of secret intelligence and ‘open source’ information to try to pick out looming threats. 

An official said: ‘It will have hi-tech stuff — heatmaps, geostationary visualisations, interactive dashboards. At key moments we still get analogue government with no maps and PowerPoint presentations. 

‘Coronavirus has shown that we need this. It will support a greater speed of decision-making.’ 

Another source said: ‘The time taken to collate data, brief ministers, understand situations and act on them will be reduced from weeks to minutes.’

The White House Situation Room was famously used by Barack Obama and then vice president Joe Biden to monitor the mission against Osama bin Laden in 2011. 

The 100-page Integrated Review document, titled Global Britain in a Competitive Age, is expected to propose a radical transformation of the military.

There will be a new RAF Space Command, a National Cyber Force and a push on artificial intelligence research. 

However, there are set to be cuts to more conventional capabilities, including the Army losing up to 12,500 troops.

That element of the blueprint is due to be fleshed out in a further Ministry of Defence announcement later in the month.  

The White House Situation Room was famously used by Barack Obama and then vice president Joe Biden to monitor the mission against Osama bin Laden in 2011

The White House Situation Room was famously used by Barack Obama and then vice president Joe Biden to monitor the mission against Osama bin Laden in 2011 

Details of the SitCen emerged after it was revealed that Downing Street has spent more than £2.6million on refurbishments so the PM can hold White House-style press briefings.   

An extensive overhaul within No 9 Downing Street began last year when the Government announced plans to hold the televised briefings. 

In response to a Freedom of Information request by the PA news agency, the Cabinet Office issued a breakdown of the costs totalling £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

It said the funds had been spent to allow daily broadcasting by news organisations within the Grade-I listed building.

‘This will necessarily require one-off capital works, including audio-visual equipment, internet infrastructure, electrical works and lighting,’ the response said.

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