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UK.gov eavesdroppers frustrated by red tape

Call for middle management cull at GCHQ

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Chiefs at GCHQ, the government's electronic eavesdropping station in Cheltenham, have been told to cut bureaucracy, which it's feared may hamper the agency's ability to cope with an increased demand for intelligence and security testing.

"The department has developed a proliferation of strategies, which serves to dilute its priorities and confuse its staff and partners," a Cabinet Office report said today.

GCHQ's more than 5,000 civilian staff are are responsible both for electronic spying - "SIGINT" - and for providing IT security expertise across other branches of UK government - "information assurance".

The report continued: "There is a risk that this lack of strategic coherence will have an impact on the organisation's focus and its ability to prioritise effectively in the face of stretching demands in the future."

The reports authors spoke to junior staff at GCHQ, who said there were too many middle managers slowing decision-making and contributing to overly complex internal procedures. The Cabinet Office told intelligence chiefs they must "weed out" the middle ranks.

The quality of information available to GCHQ's board was also criticised as "variable", particularly relating to its finance. The agency is currently running a major IT procurement project - Mastering the Internet - worth hundreds of millions and designed to increase its surveillance of the web and VoIP.

In its response to the report, GCHQ said it would "tackle robustly" staff concerns about bureaucracy and look at ways to get a better understanding of its finances.

It also promised to improve the diversity of its staff, which the Cabinet Office said was "poor", with the proportion of women lagging behind other departments. ®

Update

GCHQ sent this statement:

GCHQ accepts the Capability Review recommendation and will seek to reduce processes and management layers while retaining the strong grip on finances and legal compliance which the Review recognised.

We will be looking at best practise from both public and private sectors to see what will best support the agility and flexibility we need to continue our delivery of 'World Class Signals Intelligence'.

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