from Comedy to the CIA

Operation Retention

I can only hope that Los Angeles Times Reporter Ken Dilanian’s recent excellent piece on the Central Intelligence Agency’s troubled management will serve as a much-needed wake up call and more importantly a call to action for the Agency. Employee retention is an issue that has plagued the CIA for YEARS with no real progress in sight. The Agency hemorrhages talent, with management (middle and senior) not understanding how to effectively lead and retain the newest generation of Clandestine Service officers. It’s ironic that Operations Officers, whose job is based on communication, find the greatest career challenge in communicating with each other. A former manager of mine showed greater passion in his mission to uncover who stole his chicken cacciatore leftovers from the office fridge than, managing his team of young eager bright-eyed motivated officers.

Retaining talent at the CIA, NSA or any of our Intelligence agencies is vital, and it’s imperative that management nurtures talent. Training young officers is an investment of time, numerous resources and money. When young officers leave after only a few years of government service, it costs the public money (the hiring process is expensive) and more importantly they lose officers with invaluable institutional knowledge (which is difficult to replace). Some managers are provided with “government management training” which is as good as you’d expect from “government management training.”  A current officer described the CIA as a “1950’s top down organization” –  and that’s a problem.

The CIA is filled with immensely skilled, bright, accomplished, dedicated and patriotic employees. So it’s with great frustration to read that progress hasn’t been made to retain them. That said, I’m extremely optimistic that the new head of the Clandestine Service will bring about a much-needed positive change, as he’s a proven strong, smart, fair leader.

I’m incredibly proud of my time at the CIA, but Ken’s article sadly came as no surprise.  The issues he raised were issues that many officers face and continue to face at the CIA. This has been an extremely dark and scandal filled time for the CIA, I hope that all of this attention will motivate the Agency to adapt, grow and evolve.

Click here to read Ken’s piece.

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