Home Office anti-terror comms-interception unit hires £6m project managers to address ‘lack of skill set’

Written by Sam Trendall on 6 June 2023 in News

NCDS is currently engaged in ‘moving towards new ways of working’ to reflect legislative changes

Credit: Markus Winkler/Pixabay

A Home Office anti-terror unit that helps authorities access data from telecoms firms has signed a £6m deal for specialist project managers to help support a move “towards new ways of working”.

Little information is published about the prosaically named National Communications Data Service (NCDS) – which is not mentioned anywhere on the core GOV.UK website. But previously released commercial documents have the described the unit as the primary government team charged with “working with telecommunication operators to enable the retention, disclosure, acquisition and use of communications data” by law enforcement and the intelligence services.

Contract notices published last summer indicated that NCDS, which sits within the Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, is seeking to adopt a new “operating model” that reflects changes in recent years in telecoms technology and the legislation related to the interception of private communications data.

Alongside this revamp, the NCDS is undertaking a project dubbed “next-generation contracts” through which it will overhaul its commercial engagements in areas such as software engineering, cybersecurity, and data science. Other planned procurement exercises are likely to cover business consultancy services – including “research and innovation… [and] succession planning for our people” – as well as project management.

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To support its requirements in the latter area, NCDS earlier this year entered into a two-year £6m agreement for the provision of “project portfolio management services” for the next generation contracts initiative. 

The deal runs until January 2025 and was awarded – via the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 5 framework – to US-headquartered transformation consultancy North Highland.

“NCDS is an area within the Home Office that is moving towards new ways of working,” the text of the contract says. “It requires project portfolio management (PPM) services based on outcomes and capabilities, to support NCDS deliver its key objectives for the present and future. The primary objective of this contract is to provide PPM Services to the authority due to the lack of this skill set within the organisation, the secondary objective is the capability to flex with surges in additional PPM profession requirements and business change during the contract period, as required. The contract is expected to improve the internal capability with upskilling and knowledge transfer.”

As exclusively revealed by PublicTechnology, NCDS last year began progressing plans for a nationwide platform that would allow authorities to search for and obtain citizens’ internet connection records from communications firms. While not quite providing a full web history, these records contain details of all websites visited or apps accessed by a user, as well as details of the device used and the time of the visit.

Work on the development of this platform was not announced formally, and was only revealed in commercial notices. The Home Office, the National Crime Agency, and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office all declined to comment for our story last year, as did the 16 largest broadband providers in the UK.


About the author
Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@publictechnology.net.

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