The spies were informed Thursday by President Emmanuel Macron, during a visit to their premises: the French foreign intelligence, the DGSE (The General Directorate of External Security), will leave in 2028 its mythical premises in the twentieth arrondissement of Paris in 2028. The Ministry of the Armed Forces announced this Friday, in a press release, this move of the “Mortier” (named after the boulevard it occupies), a place marked by a history as rich as it is secret and popularized by the famous television series the “office of legends”, which is expected to cost 1.3 billion euros.
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The DGSE will set up in Fort Neuf de Vincennes, a city bordering eastern Paris, over an area of 20 hectares which is double the capacity of its current headquarters.
A strong symbol of the institution's development, of its heavy investments in human and technical resources and of the challenges posed to it by an increasingly tense geopolitical context.
"Intelligence is a decisive strategic function for our defense and our national security and an essential asset for detecting, preventing and hindering threats", specifies the ministry, evoking the need to ensure the place of the DGSE "among the best services of world intelligence ”.
"The increase in the workforce of the DGSE and the deployment of new technical capacities are hampered by the limits of its current site on Boulevard Mortier," the press release further clarified, describing a "fragmented and aging" pavilion.
"It's like 36, it's a place steeped in history"
The move will also "strengthen the synergies between intelligence and operations" and promote exchanges with other intelligence agencies in France (domestic, military, counter-interference, cyber, etc ...).
Work is expected to start in 2024.
The announcement recalls the very recent move of the judicial police, from the mythical 36, quai des Orfèvres to the Porte de Clichy.
A pivotal date, a chapter that closes, with a hint of mystery and a pinch of fantasies in addition.
This former barracks, which briefly became a prison during the Second World War, had housed in 1946 the External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (SDECE), which became DGSE.
The locals experienced the Cold War, decolonization, the fall of the Wall, the emergence of China as a world power.
141 boulevard Mortier, “it's like 36, it's a place steeped in history.
Now, it was no longer suited to current needs, ”summarizes Alain Chouet, former senior manager of the house.
“It is an agency whose name we do not mention.
So we say Mortier, the box, the agency, the swimming pool, ”referring to the nearby Tourelles swimming pool, underlines Alexandre Papaemmanuel, professor at Sciences Po Paris, an intelligence specialist.
A canteen, a crisis room with blue seats, multiple secure doors
“The Office of Legends”, a series devoted to agents who work under false identity, has considerably popularized its vast immaculate walls studded with cameras. Although it focuses on a small service, which represents only a tiny part of the agency's activities, the series has given a face to a canteen, a crisis room with blue seats, multiple secure doors, a partition almost paranoid. The fruit of a lot of documentary work which has renewed the image of the house. After five seasons and an exhibition at La Villette, “Mortier” has “entered a sort of collective unconscious”, insists Alexandre Papaemmanuel in this regard.
A new story is now to be written.
After decades of political disdain or indifference towards it, intelligence was recognized as a strategic function by the 2008 White Paper on Defense, then made a national priority in 2017.
And in 2021, according to the Military Programming Law (LPM 2019-2025), the DGSE recorded a budget of 880 million euros, against 816 in 2020, an increase of 7.8%.
In addition to increasing payment credits and heavy investments, it benefited from 100 additional positions, not to mention 100 other jobs dedicated to cybersecurity in other entities.
The trend could continue.
By way of comparison, the British services have around twice as many agents as their French counterparts.