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Intelligence Community Could Suffer Major Brain Drain

By Ed O'Keefe

One of the big challenges facing the next administration will be retaining qualified individuals to serve in all areas of government. There's special concern about the large number of baby boomers set to retire in the coming years, since they will take with them much of the government's institutional knowledge.

A loyal reader alerted The Eye to some statements made at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday that raise such concerns about the government's intelligence workforce. Members of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission told the committee that a terror attack involving weapons of mass destruction is likely to occur somewhere in the world by 2013. But the Commission's written statements also said this:

With regard to the intelligence community, the Commission recommends that the Director of National Intelligence accelerate the integration of effort among the counterproliferation, counterterrorism, and law enforcement communities to address WMD proliferation and terrorism issues; strengthen expertise in the nuclear and biological fields; prioritize training and retention of people with critical scientific, language, and foreign area skills; and ensure that the threat posed by biological weapons remains among the highest national intelligence priorities for collection and analysis. We also call on the President and Congress to build a national security workforce for the 21st century; we need to attract and retain people with critical scientific, technical, cultural and linguistic skills in all agencies.

A 2003 report by the Partnership for Public Service sounded an early alarm on the matter of recruiting and retaining qualified individuals in the homeland security and intelligence fields. The report reads in part that:

"federal employees responsible for our defenses against bioterrorist attacks constitute a civilian 'thin blue line' that is retreating both in terms of capacity and expertise. While the federal government employs a number of highly educated, high-performing employees committed to our biodefense, it is commonly the case that the current state of our civil service frustrates attempts to field an effective corps of biodefense experts."

The report also suggests that "We say that we are fighting a war against terrorism, but
the contrast between our military and our civilian systems could hardly be starker."

Keep these reports and statements in mind as we wait to hear who President-elect Obama picks to lead the nation's intelligence agencies and wait longer still to see if recruitment and retention issues arise during the inevitable confirmation hearings.

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 12, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Agencies and Departments, Revolving Door, Workplace Issues  
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Next: Eye Opener: Dec. 12, 2008


As regards language, the nineteen + Blindmen are still circling the Elephant!!

Posted by: realtimer | December 12, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Would be nice if they offered more entry-level positions that offer a route to a security clearance. My friend has been trying to get in for about 8 months, and hasn't gotten anything.

Posted by: wevans11 | December 12, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

My friends in the Federal government have been saying all along that brain drain is most evident in those areas where the Republican ideology was most interfering: Health and Human Services, EPA, State,
CIA, among them. The ones that stayed are more optimistic that a change in administration will improve things, at least eventually. But remember Federal employees have been subjected to decades of mockery from neoconservatives, including their own politically appointed leadership. Who among the best and brightest would want to put up with neocons if they didn't have to?

The current economy would normally drive brainy people into government jobs for the security (same thing happens with the military). Let's hope the Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins of the world aren't successful in their quest to dumb down the government just when we need them most.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 12, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Only the feds are saying there will be brain drain to try to justify their positions the DNI "Do Nothing Institution" need to be abolished

Posted by: syoung29 | December 12, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the Brain "washed" drain is not so bad. The wound of the Old School Government Crime Syndicate must be lanced so that the healing of our looked-down-upon nation can finally begin. Washington needs an influx of new ideas and a truly ethical philosophy. Maybe we can, for once, have people with fresh ideas who are working hard for peace, the development of science and all of the arts for the uplifting rather than destruction and control of global humanity, and teaching ALL children what they really need to know to live abundantly and be healthy, preventive/alternative health, developing Tesla's free-energy and other alternatives to fossil fuels, a clean environment, clean unadulterated food and fresh unpolluted water. We need new people in government who are no longer trained and brainwashed into the war, money, greed, corruption, power and cover up mentality that we have now, unfortunately, become so used to in the 20th and now early 21st century.

Posted by: arnoldz1 | December 12, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Read Tim Shorrock's new book, "Spies of Hire" and you'll understand how intelligence ranks and budgets have actually doubled during the past decade. There hasn't been a brain drain, but a brain privatization/outsourcing. 70 percent of the workforce at intel agencies is now contractors.

Posted by: ChasRyder1 | December 12, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it would be a GOOD thing if our bloated federal bureaucracies lost ALL their employees. The tax money used to pay them sucks the life-blood out whatever part of the economy their inane and unconstitutional regulations haven't strangled.

Remember, this country was founded on the notion that government is a bad thing. The less of it there is, the more freedom individuals have.

Would it not be wonderful to see the Homeland Security Department dismantled? Just the name gives me the willies. It could be followed by dismantling the education, veterans affairs, energy departments as well as the CIA. They are worse than useless.
Let's get rid of most of the secret service and the ludicrous entourage that accompanies the president everywhere as though he was the King of England.

Tax money saved and returned to its owners would do more for the economy than any stimulus spending package or any industry bailout would ever do.

Brain drain? Let's flush the whole federal government and start over.

Posted by: rwyoung | December 12, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Many of us are in the business and cant move up or around because we either cant get training we need or use the training we have. Be careful what you wish for...

Posted by: tunatofu | December 12, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

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