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Volume 24 No. 156
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British Government Readies Up To 2,000 Additional Troops For London Games

U.K. government sources said that the Ministry of Defence “is urgently making preparations to call up as many as 2,000 more troops for Olympic security if G4S fails to deliver on its revised target of 7,000 staff in place by next week's opening ceremony,” according to Travis, Hopkins & Gibson of the GUARDIAN. LOCOG CEO Paul Deighton “in effect took control of the G4S operation on Tuesday alongside senior Home Office officials, working through venue security rotas ‘line by line’ in a desperate attempt to avoid the embarrassment of a fresh call-up” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). In London, Paul Kelso writes Deighton “is personally attempting to unravel the mess of G4S’s scheduling software.” G4S’ senior operations staff, along with military officials, are now working "out of Deighton’s Canary Wharf offices to salvage the operation.” Sources said that security "has not knowingly been compromised” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/18). Military sources said that they “needed a decision soon on whether more troops were needed because of the time it would take to mobilise personnel for Olympic security duties” (LONDON TIMES, 7/17). The GUARDIAN's Travis, Hopkins & Gibson note Deighton's decision to take control of the security effort came as G4S CEO Nick Buckles “admitted to MPs he couldn't guarantee to provide 7,000 trained and screened security guards by next Friday.” Buckles said that he “regretted signing" the $443.4M (all figures U.S.) Olympic security contract, which had "only been taken on to ‘boost the company's reputation.’” The potential $15.6M profit had “turned into a projected" $46.8M-$32M loss and the company "had already dropped any hopes of bidding for the security contracts for the next football World Cup, or Olympic Games, which will be held in Brazil” (GUARDIAN, 7/18).

BUCKLES DOWN: Buckles said the security shortfall has been a "humiliating shambles" for G4S. In London, Ford & Asthana note G4S is now “aiming to provide a minimum of 7,000 security guards, 3,400 less than its contractual obligation, but can only currently deploy 5,000 accredited staff.” During his appearance before U.K. members of Parliament at the House of Commons yesterday, Buckles said, “Our problem at the moment is a shortage of staff. We just don’t have the staff. That shortage is going to manifest itself from today to the Games.” Buckles said that he “hopes once the Games were underway, the police and military will be given ‘three to four days notice’ to fill gaps in security cover at venues.” Despite his company's shortfall, Buckles “astonished MPs by insisting that the firm would not waive” its $89M management fee. Home Affairs Select Committee Chair Keith Vaz said, “I would definitely call on them to waive their management fee. I don’t know how they can possibly accept any management fee -- this has been the most appalling management” (LONDON TIMES, 7/18). Also in London, Booth & Haynes note LOCOG has the right to pay G4S “only for the guarding hours it actually supplies, and G4S is liable for any losses suffered by LOCOG in making up the shortfall” (LONDON TIMES, 7/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Cassell Bryan-Low notes during a “tense appearance” before the Home Affairs Committee yesterday, Buckles “blamed the problems on scheduling systems that had failed to effectively register staff and acknowledged that his company's reputation was in tatters” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/18).

AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: In London, Ann Treneman writes of Buckles, "In the end, he was too weak. Vague. Limp. Unfocused” (LONDON TIMES, 7/18). The GUARDIAN’s Simon Hoggart writes Buckles “knew nothing.” The G4S staff shortcomings had “all come as a terrible surprise, mere years after the contract had been signed” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). The GUARDIAN’s Nils Pratley writes, “Only one outcome seems possible -- after the Olympics, Buckles will have to go.” Problems were “discovered at the eleventh-hour, little contingency planning was in place and even now G4S can’t be precise in stating how many hired hands will turn up” (GUARDIAN, 7/18). In N.Y., Alan Cowell wrote LOCOG “scrambled Tuesday to assure a skeptical nation” that Games security would not be compromised. LOCOG and government ministers “with their prestige at stake argued on Tuesday that tribulations in advance of the Games would fade as spectators focused on the ceremony and sporting contests opening on July 27.” Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “I think this is not the moment for a blame game. This is the time to pull together” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/17). 

SURRENDERING TO AN ALIEN POWER? The GUARDIAN's Simon Jenkins notes G4S was "offered a crazy amount of money to guard a dozen venues for a month 'in partnership' with" LOCOG. Jenkins: “The word partnership is in this case a euphemism for someone else taking the blame.” LOCOG’s strategy "of not being interviewed or held accountable for anything to anyone ... paid off." The home secretary, the defence secretary and the culture secretary "all took the stand to defend the delivery company's contractual negligence.” London is "now being given a taste of what an unaccountable world government might be like, an Orwellian world of Zil lanes and G4S, private regulators and LOCOG inspectors roaming the streets, tearing down political banners and Pepsi ads." Jenkins: "Not since William of Orange arrived with his Dutch army in 1688 has London's government been surrendered so completely to an alien power” (GUARDIAN, 7/18).