The UK government is going to speed up the way it vets and hires new recruits at its spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, which is responsible for electronic surveillance, after it fell short of hiring targets at the end of the last fiscal year (pdf). The spy agency has said that it’s losing potential top recruits to huge tech companies because of bumper salaries. GCHQ’s lengthy vetting process, which is backlogged, also doesn’t help.
“The continued expansion of cyber-related work is dependent on the Government’s ability to recruit and retain cyber specialists. GCHQ previously told us that it struggles to attract and retain a suitable and sufficient cadre of in-house technical specialists because it inevitably has to compete with big technology companies which are able to pay significantly more,” said the report by parliament’s intelligence and security committee recently (pdf).
GCHQ, one of Britain’s three intelligence and security agencies alongside MI5 and MI6, aims to increase headcount by 14% over the next four years to 6,639 people. This is after it had a shortfall in recruitment of 22% in the fiscal year. The report added that in order to get more recruits through the door, it will have to assign more people to the vetting process.
“We have surged a lot of people into vetting… we had 51 [vetting officers] in July this year . We will have 110 by next summer to work through this… It is having an impact. We will clear the backlogs by the end of next year,” said a GCHQ representative as documented in the report.
In response to the parliamentary committee report, a GCHQ spokesperson said: “Our vetting process has to be rigorous to protect both the applicant and the organization, but we are also making it as swift and as straightforward as possible.”