MI5’s tech skills lacking, admits director-general

Jonathan Evans

Jonathan Evans

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
The director-general of MI5, Britain’s foremost domestic intelligence agency, has revealed his concern that the organization he heads lacks officers with even basic skills in information technology. Speaking before the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, Jonathan Evans said he thought “some [MI5] staff perhaps aren’t quite the ones that we will want for the future”. He continued by saying that that the lack of even basic computer skills among MI5’s aging officer ranks have sparked the introduction of a program of “both voluntary and compulsory redundancies”. Ironically, the expected layoffs are taking place during MI5’s most rapid expansion in recent memory. The agency’s budget has nearly doubled in less than a decade, and so has its workforce: from just over 2,000 employees in 2001, MI5’s workforce has now reached 3,500, and is expected to surpass 4,000 by 2011. MI5’s effort to attract younger recruits, so as to utilize information technologies and other so-called “deployable skills”, is neither surprising nor unique. In 2009, security expert Kevin O’Brien warned of “serious generational differences and disparities between [intelligence] managers’ and analysts’ cognitive outlooks”, as the older, “Generation Y” intelligence employees are being replaced by what he called the “digital generation” of spies. This “generational test” for intelligence organizations is already being felt in Australia, where the workforce of the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIO) has doubled in the past six years. This means that two-thirds of its staff have less than five years’ experience in intelligence, a factor that is expected to seriously hamper ASIO’s intelligence output in the short run.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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