CIA to Improve Intelligence Gathering Techniques

Just about everything about the CIA is classified – including its budget – but occasionally we get a little insight into how it’s spending its money: This week, the agency announced plans to pour millions of dollars over the next five years into improving intelligence gathering techniques, technologies and communications.

Number 1 on the agenda is upping foreign language fluency among intelligence operatives and analysts. A year ago, fewer than a third of these folks were fluent in a foreign language – and not necessarily the high priority languages like Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Pushto, Urdu and Persian. This percentage remains much the same today – a clear problem given the countries and populations that need monitoring. English may be the universal language, but not in the world of terrorism and cyber espionage…

CIA Director Leon Panetta’s new plan intends to double the number of undercover operatives and triple the number of analysts in foreign language training – and the comparatively easy-to-learn romance languages likely won’t be part of the curriculum.

Panetta also envisions a future in which on-the-ground intelligence operatives (i.e. spies) and analysts work in the same location. Traditionally, the two groups have been separated, but bringing them together in war zones and at headquarters has proven effective. Doing so more consistently should streamline the exchange of information and subsequent guidance, minimizing slip-ups like the almost-bombing of flight 253 to Detroit and increasing wins like the discovery of a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment plant in Iran.

In addition to closer collaboration and better language skills, the CIA plans to upgrade computer technologies and software designed to sift through and sort the massive amounts of incoming data. While ‘gathering’ is the first challenge, the intelligence isn’t of much use without incisive tracking and analytics – both human and electronic.

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