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DCIA Hayden Plots a Course (Update)

The CIA’s new director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, told agency employees yesterday that their intelligence activities are too segmented, saying that operations officers who collect intelligence need to work more closely with the analysts who interpret what it means.*

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For the analysts, Hayden said he plans to put more emphasis on “expertise and time on target and experience,” along with “pushing analysts overseas.” This continues efforts to reform past practices, in which promotions went to analysts who had served in different types of jobs instead of to those who developed deep expertise in one area. “That reward now could go to someone who has been looking at Iran for 14 years,” Hayden said.

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He also promised there will be a study of the trend of contracting out intelligence jobs with private firms. “We don’t want to be a farm system for these new firms,” Hayden said, noting that private companies sometimes lure away young officers and analysts once they have their security clearances and have completed a few years with the agency.

I’m aware of one agency’s attempt to bridge the collector-analyst divide and I am aware of exactly one person who was ever able to participate in the program (not me). The gap between these two domains is huge unless you happen to be a rare bird that has worked in both worlds (me). While the policy shift is taking place there also needs to be a set of tools put in place to facilitate the changes. This is where IC adoption of Web 2.0-like capabilities would come in most handily.

I think the second item is arguably the most important shift in thinking within this realm in decades. All those “terminal 12s” at NSA take note that hope springs eternal. Despite a lot of lip-service from past IC regimes, there is really no parallel track to management (where the high-grades are). Every division has one boss and one SIO (both 15s) and the rest get to scrap for what is left (age before capability). Say hello to pay bands folks. If he can make this work, he can chalk up his tenure as a success despite whatever else happens (almost).

Nobody joins the IC to become a contractor. When conditions are such that you have to stop being an intelligence officer and start becoming a COTR your only choice – if you like doing your original job – is becoming a contractor because that’s where the work is. There is also the issue of compensation. Laughing because you low-ball some smart college kid on the GS scale because he’s anxious to do his bit for his Uncle is a recipie for disaster, because after a year he’ll come back with a green/yellow badge making 50% more and doing the same job. Then you are out hustling to fill that billet, which probably ends up costing the government more than if you’d paid the kid decently in the first place. Once again, no one can plan past next Tuesday.

 *Update: Kent’s Imperative is back up on the net (and the ‘Net) with a related post. Welcome back.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.