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Spooks face shake-up

THE GOVERNMENT is poised to order a massive shake up of MI5 and MI6 after launching the first full inquiry into the workings of the security services.

The Strategic Security Review was quietly started last week by David Cameron.

And it will be used to bring in sweeping changes to the most secretive part of government. The News of the World has learned that the multiple committees that supervise the intelligence agencies will all be scrapped.

There will also be major cuts to the overall intelligence budget.

Some, including the Joint Intelligence Committee, were heavily criticised for failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or stop the 7/7 London bomb attacks almost five years ago.

At the moment, the JIC is responsible for running both MI5 and MI6.

But it will be replaced by the new National Security Council, which will be based in the Cabinet Office next to 10 Downing Street.

Ministers and senior civil servants insist there will be no cuts to the front-line security services.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks on New York in 2001, the budgets of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have been trebled and their staff numbers have almost doubled.

The starting salary to be a spy is between £27,250 and £45,277 for experienced professionals. There are now 3,800 people working for MI5, the domestic security service.

MI6, who work abroad, do not disclose their staffing levels but there are estimated to be about 2,000 staff.

GCHQ, the government’s global listening station, is in the process of expanding to 6,000 workers. They are now costing £3.7 billion a year.

That budget will be frozen, and major capital projects such as the refurbishment of MI6’s Vauxhall Cross headquarters delayed.

A major new computer system designed to allow the three agencies to share information will also be scrapped.

The Scope 2 system would also have been used by Home Office officials and the military.

But the scheme has already cost at least £500m and is running two years behind schedule.

Also for the chop is a highly secret request to upgrade Britain’s small number of spy satellites, which it CO-owns with America.

The current system was paid for by the last Tory Prime Minister, John Major.

That request, which will cost at least £5 billion, would not come out of any public budget, but senior staff at GCHQ have been told there will be no cash available.

To get ready for the cuts, MI5 are advertising for a “Head of Transformation”, and offering what they describe as a “six figure salary”.

They say the new employee must have: “an ambitious plan to deliver new capability within constrained budgets”.

 

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