Army sends officers to G4S headquarters


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The Independent Online

Army chiefs have been dispatched to the headquarters of G4S to take a more active role in controlling security for the London Olympics, i has learnt, following the company's failure to fulfil its £250m contract to guard the Games.

The move marks an escalation in the military's involvement and results from a sense of mounting anger within Whitehall about G4S's inability to provide the promised security guards.

The military may be asked to supply another 2,000 personnel, after already increasing the numbers deployed to 17,000 following the failure of G4S to present the full quota of guards needed for the Olympics.

The planning for further reinforcements has been hampered, however, because both G4S and the Games organisers, Locog, have been unable so far, to specify in which areas the latest shortfalls have occurred.

The dispatch of Army officers to G4S headquarters follows a growing feeling in the Ministry of Defence that it would be necessary to set up a combined headquarters with the military taking a more active role in the overall command of the Games.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, admitted yesterday the Government still could not predict how many G4S guards would turn up for duty next week at the Olympic Park. Currently, General Sir Nick Parker is the head of the Standing Joint Command for the security contribution of the armed forces, with G4S running its own operational centre, which has seen the arrival of three more officers from the military in the last few days.

But with such large numbers of forces personnel now involved, MoD officials believe there has to be closer integration. A senior Whitehall official said: "It has become obvious G4S not only needs help with the numbers but also administration. There's a case for further integration when it comes to command and control."

Asked in the Commons how many guards would be supplied by G4S, Mrs May gave no figures, replying: "The precise balance of the number who will be provided will become clear over the next few days." Ms May repeated her insistence that the Home Office only discovered on Wednesday G4S would not be able to supply enough guards. But the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said it emerged six or seven months ago.Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "This is the world's biggest security company – it's got 650,000 employees. They could have used some employees. Instead G4S chose to recruit from scratch."

Nick Buckles, the chief executive of G4S, will be asked by the Home Affairs Select Committee why ministers were not alerted earlier to the crisis.