Evolving technology means new MI6 boss may face new priorities on day one

Richard Moore faces an ever-changing landscape. Credit: PA

Almost every new chief of the Secret Intelligence Service must deal with the backdrop of a world moving faster than the one their predecessor faced on their ‘day one’.

But the current pace of technological change means that when Richard Moore begins his new role this autumn, his priorities may well have had to change from those he presented at his job interview. He will need to oversee MI6’s place in a technological arms race with hostile states.

The current ‘C’, Alex Younger, speaking in 2018, identified the need for British intelligence agencies need to “innovate faster”.

In a rare public speech he said: “Much of the evolving state threat is about our opponents’ increasingly innovative exploitation of modern technology.”

The Secret Intelligence Service building, headquarters of MI6, in London. Credit: PA

When Moore joined the service the first time round, in 1987, spycraft looked quite different even though the agency was dealing with some of the same enemies it faces today.

Many of his priorities for 2020 will be predictable, though some will be decided by politicians rather than spies. China and Russia will surely be close to the top of the list. But there’s another aspect to his job which is downplayed in the Bond movies.

His role as a political and diplomatic figure - dealing with Whitehall and Downing Street, with unfriendly states and with Britain’s international partners.

In post-Brexit Britain, the UK’s relationship with intelligence agencies in Europe will receive even more focus - and so will the office of ‘C’.

After his last spell with the service, Moore served in several public roles - as an ambassador in Turkey and in a senior position at the Foreign Office.

His CV offers a hint of some of the forthcoming challenges seen by the government, and says a little about what they will expect.