First look at the new White House-style crisis center in the UK


The US Situation Room, located in the basement of the West Wing, is a 5,543 square foot conference room managed by security officials that monitors and deals with domestic and foreign crises. Secure and advanced communications equipment allows information in the field to be transmitted directly to the president. This is where the video feeds broadcast of military operations in which US forces killed terrorists Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The UK version sits within the Civilian Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) and monitors 130 identified risks to the nation, including how these quiet threats intersect.

Roger Hargreaves, Director of CCS, explained that the creation of SitCen is “part of our broader efforts to modernize our work around crisis management and reflect lessons from recent emergencies, including the pandemic, including our work on Brexit ”.

The pandemic revealed areas where government needed improvement, including its ability to mobilize inter-Whitehall responses, its ability to engage the whole of society, and to make better use of ever more sophisticated and comprehensive data sets.

“Having a truly powerful capacity to manage and process data is at the heart of the effectiveness of our modernized crisis response – and the Situation Center is supposed to be at the heart of that,” said Mr. Hargreaves.

The unit monitors and analyzes large amounts of data in order to build a picture of the world as complete and consistent as possible.

This means that when an emergency does occur, only a small amount of additional “complementary” information is needed to help decision makers understand what is happening on the ground.

The data gathered covers open source information, official government data sets, and classified intelligence. The analysts and experts at the Center only deal with large clusters of data; they do not examine information about individuals.

When flooding hit the northeast in October, the unit was able to provide invaluable support to the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


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