[ISN] Analysts Are in Great Demand

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Dec 31 05:29:50 EST 2004


By Katherine Pfleger Shrader
Associated Press
December 30, 2004

Counterterrorism agencies are shopping for talent at job fairs,
dangling generous scholarships and luring staff from each other in a
race to overcome a shortage of analysts that may only get worse in the
new intelligence reorganization.

The problem existed even before Congress and the White House approved
an intelligence restructuring this month that has created positions
for people whose skills are already in high demand.

There is no consensus among the nation's 15 intelligence agencies on
where staffing needs are the most acute. But few dispute that many
more analysts are needed, particularly in the departments and agencies
created since Sept. 11, 2001. The nearly two-year-old Department of
Homeland Security is a prime example.

"If you had a hundred, we'd take them," retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick
M. Hughes, the agency's top intelligence official, said in an
interview earlier this year. "We have to look, search, test, assess. .  
. . We need people, but we need good people."

To find them, Homeland Security and other agencies are heading to job
fairs, often looking near military bases where civil service is part
of the culture and people may have security clearances. They are also
trying to snag people from the private sector.

Congress is also offering sweeteners. Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) created the intelligence
community's answer to the GI Bill and other military scholarships.  
Under the program, undergraduate and graduate students can receive as
much as $50,000 for two years of tuition if they agree to take needed
jobs in an intelligence agency for as long as three years.

This year, slots for 150 students were divided among the agencies,
using $4 million from Congress. About $6 million will be available
next year.

Being an analyst is almost an academic profession -- part taught, part
absorbed, part intuition -- that requires weighing volumes of
information and boiling them down into reports for policymakers in the
executive branch and in Congress.

Among the most classified and most important reports are national
intelligence estimates, which draw on information from across
government and are written by top analysts at the National
Intelligence Council. It was the council that produced the October
2002 estimate on the threat posed by Iraq, with its overblown
assessment of weapons stockpiles.

Statistics on precisely how many analysts are needed are hard to come
by. Almost universally, agencies say such numbers are classified.  
President Bush ordered the CIA in November to double the number of
analysts it employs. The agency would not say how many new jobs that
directive opened up.

Beginning several years ago, the National Geospatial-Intelligence
Agency, which studies imagery from spy satellites and other systems,
started hiring about 900 analysts, spokesman Dave Burpee said. Most
will join the agency between next year and 2009. In addition, the
Defense Intelligence Agency plans to hire 1,000 mid-level to senior
civilians next year, mostly analysts, in jobs with starting salaries
between $53,000 and $74,000.

And the National Security Agency, the nation's code breaker and code
protector, hopes to hire more than 6,000 people by 2009, on top of the
1,300 hired by the end of September. The secretive agency would not
say how many will be analysts.

DIA spokesman Donald Black said there has been more competition to
hire analysts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, especially people who
speak languages such as Arabic that are needed at the CIA, the FBI and
elsewhere. Security clearances narrow the field even more. "You don't
have a limitless pool to draw from," Black said.

Agencies also hire away analysts from each other. "Sure, there is
intense competition within the government," said Homeland Security
spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich. "The pool that we are looking for is
probably going to be fairly limited and in high demand."

During a series of hearings into the bombings of the USS Cole, the
U.S. embassies in Africa and other attacks, Roberts concluded that the
shortage of experienced analysts was the intelligence community's most
glaring deficiency.

Before the 1998 attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in a Yemeni port,
one intelligence analyst had found information that led him to
conclude that such an attack was possible. But the warnings were not
heeded, Roberts said.

Most specialties require analysts to invest seven to 10 years to get a
true handle on their subject. Cultures and languages can require
extensive immersion in a region, which cannot be gained from sitting
behind a desk in Washington.

Mike Scheuer, who headed the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to
1999, said the intelligence services need to find more experts on
Islamic extremism, like the legions of analysts available during the
Cold War to deal with the Soviets.

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