Sir Jeremy Fleming is set to stand down as director of the British Government Communications Headquarters after almost six years in the role.
The director will end his tenure in the summer after facing challenges such as the Salisbury nerve agent attack and the potential involvement of Huawei in the UK’s 5G network.
The spy chief has recently spoken out on President Vladimir Putin’s “flawed” decision-making during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warned of the “dangerous” talk of nuclear weapon use during the conflict.
Despite the potential immediate threat posed by Russia, Sir Jeremy previously told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that China was the “real long-term threat” to UK national security — saying the country was “deploying its ideologies in ways that we think are against our national interests”.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he also spoke out about the increased threat of cyber attacks — with GCHQ supporting the health sector as vaccine research was hit by hackers.
Sir Jeremy is the 16th person to head the UK’s intelligence, cyber and security agency and the recruitment process to find his replacement began on Thursday.
“Sir Jeremy Fleming, director GCHQ, has today announced his decision to step down at the end of his tenure later this year,” said a statement from the agency.
“In line with normal practice, there will be an internal civil service competition to identify a successor.
“Sir Jeremy and the board will continue to lead and oversee work at GCHQ until the summer.”
Also on Thursday, a UK defence minister said Britain has been more “free handed” in revealing intelligence about the Ukraine war to “neutralise the poison of lies and misinformation” by the Kremlin.
Given the large-scale military support being provided by the UK to Kyiv, Baroness Goldie moved to reassure parliament that military stockpiles would never go below the “safe line” needed for the nation’s own security.
The latest assistance being sent includes 14 Challenger 2 tanks, additional artillery and hundreds more missiles.
The Tory front-bencher made her comments in response to a Lords debate on the resilience of Britain’s armed forces against the backdrop of defence cutbacks and the continuing conflict in Ukraine.
“On dealing with propaganda and misinformation, we have used our own intelligence, in conjunction with the United States and the armed forces of Ukraine and Ukrainian intelligence sources, to start being a little more free handed about disclosing intelligence,” Lady Goldie told peers.
“We think that is the best way to neutralise the poison of lies and misinformation, and it has proved to be very effective.”
Pointing to a recent survey carried out in Russia, she said: “It indicated that public support for the war is dropping in Russia, and that is very welcome.”
Highlighting the extra UK military support being provided to the war-torn country, the minister said: “That package is designed to help Ukraine to go on to dominate the battlefield and to move from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil.
“In relation to replenishing stocks, the Ministry of Defence continually manages and reviews its stocks of weapons and munitions and these considerations inform what we give in kind to the armed forces of Ukraine.
“There are regular strategic supplier conversations throughout the ministry and we regularly fully engage with industry, allies and partners to ensure that all equipment and munitions granted in kind are replaced as expeditiously as possible.
“We are absolutely clear that we will never go below the safe line that we require for the security of our own nation.”