« Are your credit card details safe? Network Solutions .com domain name purchase or renewal only allowed via obsolete SSL version 2 | Main | Where is the tsunami tidal wave warning system for the North Atlantic ? »

CBRN preparedness - What exactly is the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service ?

What exactly is the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service reported by the The Independent on Sunday ?

"Revealed: the UK's secret terrorism agency
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
26 December 2004

Ministers are secretly establishing an "Armageddon agency" to respond to devastating terrorist attacks on Britain, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Neither Parliament nor the public have been told how far the Government has gone to put the service - which will deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks - into operation over the course of 2004.

The body, called the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service, is such a sensitive topic even within Whitehall that it is deliberately known only by its initials - GDRS. Even then it is hardly mentioned, even in official documents.

It is based in Margaret Beckett's Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and, according to a top official, it has been ready to respond to an attack since last April. It has appointed specialist contractors to tackle incidents, has a senior Defra civil servant directing it,"

An invited speaker to a Chatham House conference held on the 19th of November 2004 was "Robert Bentley Smith (Head of Government Decontamination & Recovery Service GDRS)"

"and at present has a core staff of about 15 officials."

So who controls, for example, the secretive MAIAT - Multi-agency Initial Assessment Team and other decontamination units (c.f. photos) spotted on the streets of London ?

What happened to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat of the Cabinet Office ?

"that MPs and the public have been told is that ministers are "considering" setting up such a body. A single sentence buried in a two-paragraph press release issued on 25 March mentioned that "the Government is actively considering the establishment of a national decontamination and recovery service".

The same words were used by Nick Raynsford, a minister in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, in May, and this is still the official position.

Nine months ago, Elliot Morley, the environment minister, promised that further details would be released "as soon as practicable". But ministers are only now contemplating a public announcement, sometime in the New Year, that they have decided to go ahead with the agency.

A search for the GDRS on the Defra and parliamentary websites last week did not turn up a single mention. Only two references to it could be found in publicly available documents: a solitary line in a Home Office statement referring to a £100,000 contribution to the project, and a single budget line in a balance sheet from the Justice Department of the devolved Scottish Executive recording a contribution of £250,000.

One top official admits: "There is not a lot of information about this in the public domain. We are further down the road than it appears publicly at the moment, and have been working on it for longer."

He says that the first moves to form the agency were taken a year ago after a secret study identified "gaps" in arrangements across Whitehall and at local authority levels in terrorism response planning."

So what happened to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat of the Cabinet Office ? Is the setting up of Government Decontamination and Recovery Service an admission of failure ?

The amount of money revealed to have been spent so far on the GDRS according to the Indepent on Sunday's article, is far less than the £8 million reported to have been spent on the widely ridiculed propaganda, the Preparing for Emergencies Booklet

Is the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service just another level of bureacracy and empire building ?

What is the point of all this secrecy ? The public needs to be informed and the various emergency reponse agencies need to practice before any emergency, not afterwards.

Which of these bureacracies will have the power of life or death over the general public, under the controversial Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Part 2 Emegency Powers ?

How does this tie in with the the United Kindom's apparent pull out from the Atlantic Blue excercise, which was reported to be a week long counter terrorism and Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear contamination exercise, involving the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom, scheduled for

According to an item at the end of an article in the Sunday Times of December 19, 2004, "MI5 agent will build Fortress Westminster" by David Cracknell and David Leppard, who seem to have been thee conduit for various Government and Civil Service leaks in the last year:

"The government faces a second setback to its counter-terrorist strategy after Whitehall officials revealed it was planning to cancel a huge counterterrorist exercise due to be carried out with the American authorities in April.

Under the exercise, codenamed Atlantic Blue, police and emergency services across the south of England were to practise responding to a simulated series of large -scale chemical and biological attacks by Islamic extremists on London and the southeast.

A similar exercise is to be held on the same day in America."

This exercise would have been the only test of the UK's civil defences on a semi-realistic scale, rather than the tiny public relations spin of the exercises at Bank Tube Station in London and the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, held for a single day, away from the crowds and traffic on a Sunday.

Is this cancellation of Atlantic Blue from the UK perspective, due to the neareness of an April date to the political pundits favourite guess at the dat of the next General Election on May 5th 2005 ?

Do you feel that the United Kingdom Government is actually devoting realistic resources and budgets to Civil Defence, or is it all political "climate of fear" spin and hype to give the appearance of action, and to try to reap some sort of political benefit ?


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference CBRN preparedness - What exactly is the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service ?:

» Gordon Brown's Chatham House speech part 1 from Spy Blog
Since we have vaguely promised not to publish very lengthy blog postings, here is the first part of our commentary on Gordon Brown's speech today. Speech by the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on "Meeting... [Read More]


This is control freaky spinning Labour at its best yet again. Everybody knows that if the worst happens the public at large is on its own.

Of course if the public do get out of hand whilst they are choking on nerve gas or developing something nasty biologically the Government has passed even more laws to enable us to be legally shot.

Thanks Mr Bliar - I'm glad I never voted you in!

Am i the only person on the planet who doesnt believe that there is a threat to us on the scale that the government would like us to believe?
Much like the bogey man has never attacked a child i do not believe in Osama either. My sources have indicated that he is very much deceased. The terrorists are an excuse to impliment power over life and death. Enforcing a police state and removeing our freedoms to "protect us". It all sounds far to familiar...Nero burns down rome, Hitlers has fires set then blamed on others. Its all about control folks. Any one who believes this not to be the case should continue to close their closet in fear of the bogey man.
You can contact me at civillianslave@yahoo.com

Looks like this blog is out of date. It is 2007 and the fact that CBRN preparedness has been successful contrbiutes to why you have not been slimed. Have you seen the experimental videos of the canine CWA exposures? Have you seen the CS field trials? Have you seen the caches of PPE? Have you seem the mobile viral glass laboratories? What do nonconventional threats and weapons do....create panic. Mass casualities will be localized and most will be psychological.

@ Viking6 - it is now 2008

Looks like this blog is out of date. It is 2007 and the fact that CBRN preparedness has been successful contrbiutes to why you have not been slimed.

There is no evidence of adequate CBRN preparedness in the UK - the Government has not spent any money on large scale, realistic civil defence practices and exercises, such as the TOPOFF series in the USA - we only participate as observers and run desktop simulations.

Our actual lack of preparedness is illustrated by the biosafety disasters last summer at the supposedly Biosafety Level 4 containment Government biological research and commercial vaccine production laboratories in Pirbright, which resulted in two releases of Foot and Mouth Disease.

These laboratories were supposedly tightly controlled by the selfsame Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) mentioned in the article above.

See the Health and Safety Executive's Final report on potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site 2007 (.pdf )

There have been no viable terrorist radiological weapon / "dirty bomb" plots aimed at the UK, but lots of "Climate of Fear" Labour Government propaganda, which has exaggerated some terrorist fantasy comments, as if they were genuine, imminent threats.

Post a comment