In the television cliffhanger "24," Jack Bauer and the other government agents use fancy cell phones, powerful computers and exotic gear as they scramble to unravel a terrorist plot. The Fox TV show's subplots include bold agents who break the rules and frustrated agents who don't hesitate to demand a pay raise during arguments with the boss.
Not the real world, by a long shot. A presidential commission yesterday provided a glimpse of the world of the government's intelligence community: The technology "is no longer on the cutting edge." The dedicated employees "seem to be working harder and harder just to maintain a status quo that is increasingly irrelevant to the new challenges presented by weapons of mass destruction."
In a report released by the White House, the commission called on John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, to knock down the walls that separate 15 intelligence agencies and to integrate key operations. It also called for an overhaul of personnel rules so that the CIA, the National Security Agency and other parts of the intelligence community can create a more agile workforce to fight terrorism.
"The CIA and NSA may be sleek and omniscient in the movies, but in real life they and other intelligence agencies are vast government bureaucracies," the commission says in its report.
"They are bureaucracies filled with talented people, and armed with sophisticated technological tools, but talent and tools do not suspend the iron laws of bureaucratic behavior. Like government bodies everywhere, intelligence agencies are prone to develop self-reinforcing, risk averse cultures that take outside advice badly," the report says.
Although the CIA and other agencies have been improving their personnel programs since the late 1990s, the commission urged Negroponte to quickly take advantage of personnel flexibilities provided in last year's intelligence reform act.
"These new authorities come none too soon, as it is becoming increasingly apparent that the intelligence community cannot continue to manage its personnel system the way it always has. The community still attracts large numbers of highly qualified people, but retaining them has become a real challenge," the report says.
Intelligence agencies can take more than a year to hire and, in particular, are "insufficiently adept" at bringing in mid-career professionals from the outside, the report says. Agencies especially appear to have trouble attracting "the best and brightest young scientists and engineers because career paths are unattractive," according to the report.
The commission recommended that Negroponte develop a program of rotational assignments that reward intelligence professionals for working on interagency projects and that he provide advanced education and management training by creating a National Intelligence University.
The commission also urged Negroponte to create more uniform pay and personnel systems for the intelligence community. Those systems "are in flux" because some agencies are moving to performance-based models while others stick with the traditional General Schedule, making it difficult for personnel to move across agency lines, the report says.
On "24," the episodes will run for a defined period and come to a neat ending. In the real world, the timeline is not so tidy. Negroponte, the report suggests, will need all the budget and management clout he can muster "to dig deep into the culture of each agency and force changes where needed."
Robert H. Lydick, an information technology specialist with the Internal Revenue Service's counsel information systems office, will retire today after 31 years of government service.
Ellen E. Tunstall, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, will retire Sunday after 34 years of federal service. She entered the Senior Executive Service in December 2000, serving as deputy associate director at the Office of Personnel Management. Before going to OPM in 1996, she served for 25 years in various human resources positions primarily within the Department of Defense and Air Force at various locations in the United States and overseas. In July 2003, she returned to the Pentagon to serve as director of workforce issues and international programs, responsible for policies affecting more than 700,000 civilian employees worldwide.
"Ten Things You Don't Know About the EEOC System" will be the topic for discussion on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com.
Keith Pedigo, director of loan guaranty service at the Veterans Affairs Department, will be the guest on the "IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).
"Pay According to Work Performance?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).