Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bruce appointed Chief of CSE

Shelly Bruce has been appointed Chief of CSE effective immediately.

Bruce was appointed Associate Chief in November 2017 and has been serving as acting Chief of the agency since May 23rd, when the previous Chief, Greta Bossenmaier, was appointed National Security and Intelligence Advisor. Prior to serving as Associate Chief—a position that only occasionally appears on the CSE organization chart—Bruce spent eight years as the Deputy Chief in charge of the SIGINT side of the agency. (More on Bruce's bio here.)

Bruce is the 10th Chief CSE/Director CBNRC, and the first chosen from within the ranks of the agency since 1989:
  • Edward M. Drake (1946 - 1971)
  • N. Kevin O'Neill (1971 - 1980)
  • Peter R. Hunt (1980 - 1989)
  • A. Stewart Woolner (1989 - 1999)
  • D. Ian Glen (1999 - 2001)
  • Keith Coulter (2001 - 2005)
  • John L. Adams (2005 - 2012)
  • John Forster (2012 - 2015)
  • Greta Bossenmaier (2015 - 2018)
  • Shelly Bruce (2018 - )
The five Chiefs before Bruce were all brought in from outside the agency, a practice that presumably was begun to bring an outsider's perspective into CSE and perhaps encourage a somewhat less insular agency culture. Ministers typically develop very little in-depth knowledge of the workings of the agency and they may also have seen outside Chiefs as a safeguard against being bamboozled by the bureaucrats when they came to him for approval of this or that policy or proposal.

If that was the concern, however, it seems to be absent now. Not only was the new Chief hired from the inside, but CSE's promotion to stand-alone agency in 2011 removed both the Deputy Minister of National Defence and the National Security Advisor (as the position was then known) from the direct CSE chain of command. Both positions are filled by public servants, to be sure, but neither was beholden to the agency, and thus both were in a position to take a somewhat more skeptical view of its claims. I don't much fancy the Minister's chances if the agency should ever decide to "blind him with science" as the saying goes.

Not that I'm saying we should expect that from Bruce.

And the Minister won't be entirely defenceless in any case. The National Security and Intelligence Advisor is still in a position to comment on much of what CSE says and does, and having just been Chief herself, Bossenmaier will certainly know what's really going on there. The new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, the CSE Commissioner, and, once Bill C-59 is passed, the upgraded watchdog agencies should also help the Minister stay apprised of what's going on.

Is it possible the government feels CSE now has enough outside eyes on it and no longer needs to put itself through the process of training a new Chief every few years?

Whatever the reason, it's clear that Bruce will be able to hit the ground running, and that has to be seen as a good thing by the agency as it prepares to adapt to its new C-59 authorities, including the power to conduct computer network attack operations, while standing up the new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and managing on-going growth.


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