Following the news that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is growing in power and influence (see “New Store Coming Soon” – March 1), the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, chaired by Margaret Beckett, has recommended that there should be a Cabinet member who is recognised as the “cyber security lead” with responsibility for the NCSC (3rd Report, recommendation 19).
Having its own minister would be another considerable step forward for the NCSC which is increasingly threatening to break free of direct GCHQ control. The Committee commented (at para 21) on rumours it had heard that “there are unresolved tensions derived from its status as part of GCHQ”.
The government has pointed out that, technically (apologies for the pun), the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is responsible for the NCSC and that this is considered by them to be sufficient. We shall see.
The most recent report of the Committee also concludes (para 22) that in the two years that the NCSC has been the UK lead on cyber security the threat has continued to grow at a considerable rate. The Committee is concerned that the NCSC will need to be given even greater resources, especially manpower. Presumably this means that it will take an even greater slice of GCHQ’s budget unless additional funding is found.
The face of espionage has been changing for some time and continues to do so. The role of the NCSC reflects the strains that this change is placing on the old intelligence agency superstructure in the UK. (You can see the Committee’s conclusions and other work at: http://www.parliament.uk/jcnss)