By Ellen McCarthy
Thursday, May 27, 2004; Page E01
In a quiet brick office park just beyond the gourmet grocery stores and high-end salons that mark McLean's business district, David Tittle spends his days scoping out the best-of-the-best intelligence experts and code breakers.
Demand for people schooled in the fine art of extracting and analyzing sensitive information has never been greater, said Tittle, a headhunter who co-founded the Paul-Tittle Search Group 30 years ago.
When asked if he recruits spies, Tittle answered vaguely, saying it really depends how you define the term. He acknowledged that his clients have included the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Furthermore the vast majority of Tittle's customers are government contractors in the intelligence business.
But he said the intelligence game has changed significantly over the years and so has the type of expertise the government needs. In the old days, "there were good guys and bad guys," said Tittle, his way of describing the emphasis on having human intelligence experts (aka spies) on the ground talking to people, developing sources around the world.
But today, "if you look at the billions of dollars being spent on intelligence, most of that is on electronic elements," that is, better and faster technology, and on people who can design or use that technology and analyze the data collected, he said.
"The vast majority of the intelligence community are analysts," Tittle said. Thus the biggest demand coming from his clients is for technology experts who can build and manage databases or design programs to analyze mass amounts of information -- not for James Bond.
"These people are changing the way warfare works," he said.
How the government finds qualified workers to perform closely held and critical tasks has come under fire in recent weeks, with the revelation that civilians employed by Arlington-based CACI International Inc. were hired as interrogators in Iraq. That fact didn't surprise Tittle, because he said the intelligence community is now "largely defined as the contractors" who are willing to fill any role the government wants them to fill.
Tittle got hooked on this shadowy world as a self-described Army brat who immersed himself in spy novels as his family moved around the country. His first job after graduating from Duke University was with the National Security Agency, a position he accepted without first asking for a job description. Tittle stayed with the NSA for three years and learned cryptology, or code-breaking, before going back to graduate school. He later did a stint with Army intelligence and then started his headhunting firm in 1974 with Paul Allen, an executive recruiter with General Electric Co.
Paul-Tittle's focus over the past three decades closely reflected the evolution of the Washington region's technology sector. As government contractors sprung up around the Beltway, Paul-Tittle acted as a pipeline for executives who wanted to move back and forth between public and private sector jobs.