Intelligence Plan Targets Training, Keeping Personnel

By Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 19, 2006

U.S. intelligence efforts are hampered by inefficient methods for recruiting, training and assigning personnel, according to a new human resources plan that calls for a more "corporate" business model and increased cooperation within the 16-agency intelligence community.

Among the problems cited by the "Strategic Human Capital Plan" prepared for John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, is an inability to compete with the private sector for the "best and the brightest" workers in language, scientific and technological skills. Security-clearance restrictions have impeded hiring a diverse workforce, including noncitizens with critical expertise in other countries and cultures.

The plan is the latest step in Negroponte's effort to bring the disparate intelligence agencies under one umbrella. Investigations and inquiries have cited rivalry, differing standards and poor communication among agencies as a key factor in not preventing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, which established Negroponte's office and addressed other recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, calls for increased integration and an elimination of overlap.

Published internally in June as an unclassified document and released yesterday by the nongovernmental Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News blog, the plan sets an outline for hiring, training and benefits policies and directs each agency to develop a plan to contribute to overall goals.

It calls for creating an "all source" workforce by setting overarching goals for numbers and quality and for "determining the optimum mix of military, civilian, contractor and other human resources," as well as creating a "cohesive" leadership culture.

Although intelligence agencies have been flooded with recruits the past five years -- the CIA received 140,000 résumés in 2005 -- attracting and keeping people with "a deep understanding of other societies, their values, cultures, religions and languages" remains a priority, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said.

The plan cites a workforce imbalance created by the post-Sept. 11 influx of young recruits at a time when senior officials have been retiring and mid-level managers have been departing for better-paying or more interesting jobs. Nearly 40 percent of current CIA employees have been hired in the past five years, and up to 20 percent of the agency workforce will be eligible for retirement over the next five.

Many new employees of intelligence agencies, particularly in critical areas of analysis and human intelligence, "are not seeking a 25-to-30-year career," the plan reports. Instead, like others at their age and experience level, "they see a future with multiple jobs and a variety of employers."

In addition, new employees "have far different styles of work, interaction, dress, leisure, even language" that portend "a potential 'culture clash' " with older supervisors and top level officials.

The plan recognizes the growing tendency of intelligence agencies to use contractors rather than their own personnel. This has been particularly true of the rapidly growing intelligence elements within the Defense Department, which spend up to 85 percent of the intelligence budget. More than two-thirds of the employees of the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), begun in 2002 to supervise force protection for Defense facilities at home and abroad, have been supplied under private contracts at costs considerably above government pay scales.

"Increasingly, the IC [intelligence community] finds itself in competition with its contractors for our own employees," the plan laments. For example, Lockheed Martin posted a job offer last month for an "Advanced Special Operations Officer" to provide administrative and operational support at Fort Bragg, N.C., on a part-time basis with a salary of $43,000 for a 90-day rotation.

The applicant must have current Department of Defense top-secret security clearance with "sensitive compartmented information" eligibility -- likely to be obtained only by working in a government intelligence agency.

Part of the reason for the turn to contractors, according to the plan, rests with budget ceilings that Congress or the White House Office of Management and Budget have placed on the agencies, as well as the past uncertainties of steady funding to support a permanent government workforce.

The study describes the irony that "those same contractors recruit our own employees, already cleared and trained at government expense and then 'lease' them back to us at considerably greater expense."

The situation has already led to an investigation by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the plan discloses that the OMB has asked Negroponte's group to study contracting because it believes "inherently governmental" work is improperly being outsourced.

Negroponte's office is seeking to have its own level of staffing raised to allow more permanent hires, the plan says.

Personnel surveys disclosed in the plan indicated that intelligence workers are largely satisfied with the work they do but are unhappy with senior leaders and the manner in which promotions are handled.

Only 42 percent of those responding said their senior leaders generated high levels of motivation and commitment to the job. The lowest response came when 29 percent agreed with steps taken to deal with poor job performers and 54 percent believed creativity was rewarded.

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