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Posted at 4:20 PM ET, 10/15/2010

CIA only an 'ok' place to work, jobs Web site says

By Jeff Stein

Imagine James Bond whining about unfair bosses and step-grade pay raises. Neither can we.

But that’s so Cold War. Today, CIA employees can air out their thoughts about quality of life issues at the spy agency.

A commercial Web site called, which offers “an inside look at jobs and companies,” has set up a page just for CIA employees.

From the responses so far, the Web site rates the CIA as only an “ok” place to work.

To be sure, only five persons have contributed so far -- and who knows for sure if they are who they say they are? But the details, and even anguish, in their responses, ring true.

An intelligence analyst said the CIA was “good for tenure” with “opportunities to move around,” and also touted the directorate’s “flex schedule.”

But it’s “not great with advancement or long term work-life balance,” the analyst said.

The “hiring overload of the past decade means lots of talented young people fighting for management recognition to gain promotion to higher grades,” leaving a “limited number of experienced ‘senior’ mentors to teach all the new people,” this person said.

Another, a “senior analyst,” called the agency “behind the times and slow to catch up,” with a “bureaucratic mindset among analysts and managers,” an “obsession with ‘chasing the news’ and little focus on real analysis.”

The intelligence directorate is “satisfied with mediocre written products … closed-minded and unwilling to consider new and different ideas,” the senior analyst added.

It's “a fun place to be, but don't make it a career,” another intelligence analyst warned.

There’s “absolutely a sense of mission with some really motivated people” and “some very cool jobs available,” this person continued. “You feel your job is very important, and that you're really doing something that matters.”

Another bennie? “Absolutely no chance of getting fired unless you do something horrible like racially or sexually harass someone.”

“If you want a 30-year employer with many different types of jobs, CIA is great,” the analyst said.

On the other hand: “Many levels of management are almost uniformly awful. All levels of employees are constantly sent to BS training courses. Managers seem to spend half their time in management training courses which are clearly counter productive.”

“The absolute worst thing for me,” the analyst said, “was that the best and the worst employees were treated exactly the same in many cases. Same salary, same job titles, same seniority. “

There ought to be a way, the analyst said, “to weed out horrible employees.”

As it turns out, the CIA tried to solve management problems early in the decade by instituting a pay-for-performance scheme. An outside panel hired to analyze its personnel system in 2003 said it was in need of urgent repair.

“Restoring equity, transparency and accountability in the Central Intelligence Agency’s performance and pay systems is critical to the Agency’s future and its workforce,” said the panel, assembled by Business Executives for National Security, a high-powered group that advocates intelligence reform.

“Failure to achieve reforms would be detrimental to executing the Director’s strategic vision and accomplishing the Agency’s mission,” it said.

But the CIA had to drop the plan in the face of congressional opposition.

The CIA would not comment for the record.

“But we’ve turned our attention to improving on the fundamentals of performance management—how to set objectives, how to give feedback, how to rigorously measure an officer’s contribution—that embody the original goals and spirit of the pay modernization initiative,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

By Jeff Stein  | October 15, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Financial/business, Intelligence  | Tags:  Business Executives for National Security, James Bond,  
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Next: CIA files suit against former spy Ishmael Jones


Wow, those employees will enjoy having their apartments searched.

Posted by: kenk3 | October 15, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

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