Author: Manmeet Singh Arora
Research Coordinator, GCTC
Areas of interest: Intelligence Analysis, Counter intelligence studies, Terrorism Studies, Legal Analytics and Court Administration
A command centre is also called a war room or a situation room where there is a centralized command for decision making and passing it off for executive action. Earlier it was limited for military functions but now it has moved from Government to board rooms where important actionable decisions are taken considering the Real Time Data which is made available to the panel of decision makers to act in time and respond to inquiries, and synthesize opinions to determine the best course of action.
The historical facts surrounding the centre:
In the Cold War era, the Government of Canada undertook the construction of “Emergency Government Headquarters”, to be used in the event of nuclear warfare or other large-scale disaster. Canada was generally allied with the United States for the duration of the war, was a founding member of NATO, allowed American cruise missiles to be tested in the far north, and flew sovereignty missions in the Arctic. For these reasons, the country was often seen as being a potential target of the Soviets and extensive post-attack plans were drawn up for use in emergencies, and fallout shelters were built all across the country for use as command centres for governments of all levels.
In the year 1961, when John Kennedy was the President in the White House he had a situation, but no Situation Room or Command centre was available. President Kennedy was confused with the flow of intelligence into the Oval Office and tits and bits of information which does not seem collated and was not in the form of a finished product for the President to act upon. The president decided to have such a facility as a Command Centre which he later named as a Situation Room and put his own naval aide in charge of construction, a group of contractors who worked at night to convert the mansion’s basement bowling alley into what into famous ultra-secure workspace called the White House Situation Room.
Previously various spots were selected for their most sensitive communications, from Lincoln’s late-night visits to the telegraph office next door to the White House to Roosevelt’s in-house World War II command centre and in the mansion’s Map Room.
But after the incident of the failed Bay of Pigs operation, President Kennedy wanted an efficient movement of critical information in and out of the White House. The equipment and Protocols for the Functioning of the Command Centre called Situation Room has evolved within years into an Automatic facility with most advanced cables to filter information. The Duty officers of the White Office work around the clock in the space sift through intelligence feeds for the president’s daily briefing. And when a crisis strikes, it becomes a secure communications centre with global reach.
The Early Command Centre styled as Situation Room
The “The Situation Room” is in a small suite, consisting of three conference rooms and a duty watch station. From the Open Sources it confirms that the Chairs seem to be placed according to Hierarchy and the power it seems to be emanating from the ambience of the room is mesmerising as to how great minds work together to solve world’s greatest problems and intervene into global scenarios. It can be termed as Presidents Intelligence Room were timely information flows and the collated information is streamed and acted upon as and when situation arises. It is Located next to the White House mess, the Situation Room has been the scene of some of modern history’s most fraught moments. At the end of his presidency, Jimmy Carter spent endless hours in the room negotiating futilely for the release of American hostages in Iran. A few days before he left office, according to Bohn, Dennis Chapman, director of the Situation Room, delivered some papers to the president. Carter, worn out by his difficult term in office, put his arm around Chapman and said, “You know Dennis, the Situation Room is the only part of the government that never let me down. The catalogue of crisis moments is in the very air of a space that is the most secure corner of one of the world’s most secure buildings. One can always feel the weight of history in that room,” said Pete Souza, the White House photographer during the Obama administration.
The Modern Version of Command Centre as War Room and its Function
As machines have continued to get smaller and become more powerful, it’s possible to have a very minimal command centre composed of a few devices and a desk, for example. For some facilities, a simple and smartly integrated setup may be all that is needed. However, in other facilities, much more elaborate setups are necessary to maintain full control of audio-visual components, whether for use in monitoring separate systems and subsystems in completely different locations, or other more complicated tasks. all audio-visual systems benefit from consultation and input from audio-visual integrators, larger centralized hubs in particular require the assistance of skilled and experienced audio-visual integrators for maximum efficiency and optimization. As a result, an experienced audio-visual crew is paramount in avoiding any problems along the way and should be consulted during the planning stages of any such system. Complex control centres require planning, with special consideration for far-reaching technical considerations, and long-term support to make sure that everything keeps running per concept, every day of the year.
Transformation in Command Centres
Command Centre transformation confronts increased operational demands with the number and simultaneity of missions categorically requiring agile command and control functions, robust planning and execution processes, conformable organizations, and a responsive information and knowledge management disposition and arrangement. A number of command centre transformation projects aimed at countering stove piped conventions unwittingly continue to protract them.
war room (also known as a situation room, command centre or control room) is a centralized meeting space where project teams and stakeholders can co-locate and visually communicate project activities.
The idea of a war room is to physically gather the entire team into a ‘single location’ to facilitate communication, problem-solving, risk mitigation and status reporting. The single location can be physical, virtual or some combination of the two based on the specifics of the organization’s structure. War-room communication includes data visualization of key performance metrics such as budget, schedule, issues, risks and overall project health.
The walls of such rooms are covered with sticky notes, photos, wireframes, and user interface designs. Data, insights, and ideas associated with the project are made physically available to see, touch, organize and start synthesizing ideas.
An ideal Command Centre or a Situation Room should have a mission statement and perform certain functions such as:
- Collecting and Monitoring information as feed which is received as a end product
- Data processing in different forms where the collected feed is filtered for information and used as an actionable intelligence
- The feed so collected must come from the sources from the ground which has a direct bearing to the situation at hand
- It acts as Crisis support Centre during the time where situation involves national emergency and the real time data is the game changer
- The persons deployed in the Command centre must be encouraged to share their ideas and collective responsibility in sharing each other expertise helps in solving the crisis
- The hierarchy system of information sharing should be discouraged because it creates an environment of conflicts of ego which distorts the clear vision of information coordination
- The Command Centre should have all sets of High-tech electronics equipment to provide real time data/ feed to the centre and the instructions can be easily send across the ground where the situational Crisis is going on
- The Central Command Centre can be connected to a network of Centres for carrying out instructions from the ground and sending back the results of the action taken with the established resources.
- The intelligence cycle is in form of complete domain in the Command centres if the Standard Operating procedure are followed properly, it should act as a one stop centre for information which organises the distorted data in to meaningful intelligence
- Every Command Centre should be equipped with a Map room in form of study of geoinformatics or Aerial Reconnaissance
The Command Centre and its Reporting Standards
Every Command centre needs a reporting standard to write reports in the form of summaries of important events keeping in view the latest developments in international affairs. The daily report should contain overviews of incoming cables/information in form of items of interest so that the supreme commander or authority knows which issues require attention and how the situation needs to be dealt, in this exercise he may call for more information on the subject if he feels that he needs to be informed well to broach the subject before the entity with whom he is dealing.
Asking the right question is an edge for an authority and the underlying issues need attention, the command centre does the same with zero in the information, acts as an early warning system connects the dots and with adequate evidence forms the actionable policy to be followed by the leaders and person in common. The bureaucratic setup must take the benefit of these reports and share information with different departments of the government under a mission statement.
Recent Trends of formation of Command centre by the Indian Government
During this Covid pandemic many states in India have formed Covid Command centres as early warning systems to carry out the Surveillance of spreading of virus and to eradicate and slow down the information the centres deployed with Covid Officers are carrying out the guidelines laid down by government of India from time. The above centres are preparing reports and statistics including a list of those who are infected and those tested positive so that isolation centres can be prepared to maintain social distance. However, this whole exercise needs coordination and information sharing which is still missing when it is seen that the different organs of the government are unable to route the logistical requirements in from of medicines, Oxygen Cylinders, Less No’s of ICU Beds, dearth of doctors and specialist to deal with this pandemic, The Situation here is an endless list of misnomers.
It seems that the government wasn’t properly prepared for the present catastrophe which is man made calamity but what needs to be done at the moment the answer is always hidden between the lines and deep-rooted search, and having situational awareness, Anticipating Surprise and Preparedness will bring about change in the future which requires Analytical thinking and for a finished intelligence product which is the end result of Command Centre for executing real time data and Prompt Action.