Frustration with poor managers is costing the CIA some of its most talented staff, internal surveys and former officers say.
Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2013
WASHINGTON — For the Central Intelligence Agency, he was a catch: an American citizen who had grown up overseas, was fluent in Mandarin and had a master’s degree in his field. He was working in Silicon Valley, but after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he wanted to serve his country.
The analyst, who declined to be named to shield his association with the CIA, was hired in 2005 into the agency’s Directorate of Intelligence, where he was assigned to dig into Chinese politics. He said he was dismayed to discover that unimpressive managers wielded incredible power and suffered no consequences for mistakes. Departments were run like fiefdoms, he said, and “very nasty internecine battles” were a fixture.
By 2009, he had left the CIA. He now does a similar job for the U.S. military.
CIA officials often assert that while the spy agency’s failures are known, its successes are hidden. But the clandestine organization celebrated for finding Osama bin Laden has been viewed by many of its own people as a place beset by bad management, where misjudgments by senior officials go unpunished, according to internal CIA documents and interviews with more than 20 former officers.
Fifty-five percent of respondents to a 2009 agency-wide survey who said they were resigning or thinking about it cited poor management as the main reason, according to a 2010 report on retention by the agency’s internal watchdog that mirrored the findings of a 2005 report. Although the CIA’s overall rate of employee turnover is unusually low, the report cited “challenges” in the retention of officers with unique and crucial skills, such as field operatives.
The heavily redacted, unclassified report by the CIA’s inspector general was turned over to the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau recently, two years after a request was filed under the Freedom of Information Act. Retired CIA officers who talk regularly with former colleagues say little has changed. CIA employees are generally prohibited from speaking to the news media and are grilled during periodic polygraph exams about any contacts with reporters.
“Perceptions of poor management, and a lack of accountability for poor management, comprised five of the top 10 reasons why people leave or consider leaving CIA and were the most frequent topic of concern among those who volunteered comments,” the inspector general’s report says.
CIA employees complained of “poor first-line supervision, lack of communication about work-related matters and lack of support for prudent risk taking,” the report says.
Phi Beta Iota: This is what modern iconoclasts have been saying for a quarter century now. This situation exists because intelligence with integrity does not exist and does not matter to politics without integrity. Intelligence today is a pork pie, and its managers live impunity rather than excellence.