Recent history: the changing global environment

Last Updated: 20 Jan 2014
Following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, GCHQ broadened its focus away from the Soviet Bloc to encompass a wider range of global targets.

The more unpredictable nature of the threat required much greater agility from GCHQ and the development of new areas of expertise. Counter-terrorism, Counter-proliferation and more recently Cyber Security have become increasingly important parts of GCHQ’s mission. GCHQ has also provided intelligence support to British forces deployed in Iraq (2003-2011) and Afghanistan (2001-present).

GCHQ’s function was first avowed to Parliament in 1983, and is now enshrined in the Intelligence Services Act of 1994. 

In May 1999, the Foreign Secretary announced that he had chosen the site of GCHQ's new accommodation. The two existing sites made way for a single site at Benhall through a major new construction project.

GCHQ recently played an active role in supporting the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Intelligence and Security Committee later commented:

'The Games represented the largest intelligence and security challenge that the agencies have ever faced in peacetime. We commend those working in the agencies for their considerable efforts, and congratulate all those involved on the successful outcome.'