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Decision to merge CESD with GCHQ


Above: Cabinet Secretary Burke Trend (on the far left of the picture) greets President Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington DC

Between 1968 and 1969, Burke Trend, the Cabinet Secretary, joined with Dick White, Britain's first Cabinet Office Intelligence Co-ordinator, to institute a number of important reforms within the British intelligence community. This included major changes to the JIC system, strengthening the influence of defence intelligence and creating JIC (B) to deal with economic intelligence. They also sought to accelerate the use of computer technology by the intelligence community, an effort presided over by Teddy Poulden from Cheltenham.

For GCHQ, the most important change was its merger with Communications-Electronic Security Department, which dealt with communications security or 'comsec'. Communications security had been constituted as a separate organisation since 1953, partly as a result of pressure from the armed services and partly as a response to the growing problem of "Tempest" or short-range electromagenetic radiation from communications equipment. It had enjoyed premises in central London at 8 Palmer Street, next to St James Park tube station and also additional space at Eastcote, which had been vacated by GCHQ's move the Cheltenham. However, by the mid-1960s, with the growth of the commercial electronics sector, CESD was struggling to find enough scientists and technicians to fulfill its work. It was thought more efficient to combine the technical resources of sigint and comsec. It was also recognised that most other UKUSA countries had combined their sigint and comsec staff in one organisation. The decision was therefore taken to merge CESD with GCHQ. moving many of its staff to Cheltenham. CESD was then renamed Communications-Electronic Security Group and retains this title today.