GCHQ appoints its first female director

Cheltenham-based intelligence, security and cyber agency GCHQ is appointing the first female director in the organisation's history, with Anne Keast-Butler taking over from Sir Jeremy Fleming.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Anne Keast-Butler takes over from Sir Jeremy Fleming as director of GCHQ in May 2023.

GCHQ is appointing its first ever female director, as Anne Keast-Butler takes over from Sir Jeremy Fleming to head up the organisation. 

She is currently serving as the deputy director general at MI5, with foreign secretary James Cleverly announcing her appointment as the 17th director of GCHQ on Tuesday 11 April 2023. Keast-Butler will be the first woman in the organisation's history to hold the position when she takes over in May 2023. 

She said: 'I am delighted to be appointed as the 17th director of GCHQ. GCHQ’s mission to keep the UK safe is as inspiring today as it was when it was founded more than 100 years ago, operating at the very heart of the UK and our allies’ response to some of the most challenging issues of our time. In just the last year GCHQ has contributed vital intelligence to shape the West’s response to the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine; helped disrupt terrorist plots; and worked tirelessly to tackle the ongoing threat of ransomware, the impact of which costs the UK dearly.

'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. I can’t wait to get started.'

Fleming announced his intention to step down from the role after six years in January 2023. A cross-government recruitment process to find his replacement was chaired by cabinet secretary, Simon Case, with Keast-Butler's appointment being agreed by the prime minister. 

Fleming said: 'Anne’s appointment is fantastic news for the organisation. I have worked with Anne for decades and think she is a brilliant choice with deep experience of intelligence and security in today’s technology-driven world.'

National security adviser, Sir Tim Barrow added: 'I am glad to welcome Anne Keast-Butler’s appointment to director of GCHQ. Anne was the exceptional candidate in a talented field. She brings a wealth of experience from across the national security community, has the vision to take GCHQ into the future and will ensure that it continues its vital work to protect the UK. 

'I am grateful to Jeremy for his service as director of GCHQ and over a distinguished career in national security. Jeremy's insights and analysis have been hugely valuable through one of the most demanding periods of our recent history.'

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