First female director of GCHQ appointed

A woman will become the boss of GCHQ for the first time in its more than 100-year history when the current director steps down next month.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced that Anne Keast-Butler has been appointed to succeed Sir Jeremy Fleming as head of the Government’s intelligence organisation.

Ms Keast-Butler, currently MI5’s deputy director-general, will take up the role in May when Sir Jeremy leaves after six years, making her the security agency’s 17th leader since its inception in 1919.

The married mother-of-three and dog lover, who grew up in Cambridge and has a maths degree from the University of Oxford, said she is “delighted” to be appointed and “can’t wait to get started”.

Ms Keast-Butler, who has spent 30 years working in national security, also described GCHQ’s mission is “as inspiring today as it was when it was founded.”

She said: “I was privileged to work in GCHQ a few years ago, so I know I am again joining a world-class team of people from diverse backgrounds with a broad range of skills, who share a singular focus on making our country safer, more secure, and more prosperous.

“I am passionate about continuing to ensure that GCHQ is an organisation where everyone can perform to their very best.

“I am so grateful for the vision and dedication Sir Jeremy Fleming has shown during his tenure, and the ways in which GCHQ has transformed under his leadership.

“I look forward to building on this in the months and years to come.”

Before holding senior security service roles at MI5, Ms Keast-Butler spent two years on secondment to GCHQ as head of counter-terrorism and serious organised crime, and also worked in Whitehall over the last decade, during which time she helped launch the National Cyber Security Programme.

Mr Cleverly said: “Anne Keast-Butler has an impressive track record at the heart of the UK’s national security network, helping to counter threats posed by terrorists, cyber-criminals and malign foreign powers.

“She is the ideal candidate to lead GCHQ, and Anne will use her vast experience to help keep the British public safe.”

National Security Adviser Sir Tim Barrow said Ms Keast-Butler was an “exceptional candidate in a talented field” and thanked Sir Jeremy for his service, adding: “Jeremy’s insights and analysis have been hugely valuable through one of the most demanding periods of our recent history.”

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