Ken McCallum has been appointed as the new Director General of MI5. He will become MI5’s eighteenth Director General and succeeds Sir Andrew Parker, who has been Director General since 2013 and retires in April.
Ken McCallum is an MI5 officer with almost 25 years of experience across the full spectrum of the organization’s national security and intelligence work.
His first ten years was focussed on Northern Ireland-related terrorism, with his work contributing to the peace process remaining a career highlight. Senior operational roles in countering Islamist extremist terrorism followed, and a period leading on cybersecurity, where he expanded MI5 engagement with the private sector.
In 2012, Ken took charge of all counter terrorism investigations and risk management in the run-up to, and during, the London Olympics. After the Games, he embarked on a secondment to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now BEIS) leading on digital issues, building his experience beyond the national security domain. Following his return to MI5 he retained links to the wider public sector, serving for three years as a Non-Executive Director on the board of the Nuclear Decomissioning Authority.
In April 2015, Ken took on the role of Director General Strategy, focussing on shaping new legislation and further strengthening MI5’s partnerships with SIS and GCHQ.
Ken was appointed Deputy Director General of MI5 in April 2017, with responsibility for all of MI5’s operational and investigative work.
Ken led MI5’s strategic response to the 2017 terrorist attacks, setting up the joint MI5 and Police ‘Operational Improvement Review’, as overseen by Lord Anderson QC, and then driving forward the implementation of its recommendations. Important changes included new ways of working with traditional and new partners, and MI5 taking on responsibilities for detecting and countering Right-Wing Terrorism.
In 2018, Ken took charge of the MI5 response to the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, within the unprecedented UK-led international response from intelligence allies.
One of Ken’s current priorities is enabling MI5 to seize the fast-moving opportunities provided by technology, including machine learning.
Ken grew up in Glasgow, and holds a degree in Mathematics from Glasgow University. His out-of-work life is dominated by trying to be an active father. When work/parenting allows, he enjoys hiking in mountains.
Speaking about his appointment, Ken McCallum said:
“MI5’s purpose is hugely motivating. Our people – with our partners – strive to keep the country safe, and they always want to go the extra mile. Having devoted my working life to that team effort, it is a huge privilege now to be asked to lead it as Director General.”
Outgoing Director General Sir Andrew Parker said:
“Ken will make an outstanding Director General. He’s the right person to take MI5 forward and is already leading work to shape the future of MI5. He brings a wealth of leadership and national security expertise to the role, which is all the more important today as MI5 and the country deals with the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.”