Boom Times at the CIA

To better gather intelligence about elusive terrorist entities, the CIA has increasingly shifted its personnel “forward” into foreign locations in recent years. This has not always been easy, as the agency does not have a rotational expeditionary culture like the Air Force, noted CIA Director Mike Hayden at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Sept. 17. Hayden, who retired from the Air Force earlier this year, said the CIA’s shift into the field has been significant. Many more analysts and clandestine service operatives have essentially been “kicked out of Langley,” the CIA’s Virginia headquarters, and sent to immerse themselves in foreign cultures. In the National Clandestine Service alone, Hayden said the staff had increased by 44 percent from 2000 to 2007, while the number of bases and stations CIA operates from rose 40 percent over the same period. For analysts, he said foreign immersion is a good way to “compress the clock” and give personnel valuable experience that previously took much longer to accrue. More than half of CIA’s analysts have been hired since 9/11, Hayden noted, and while that does not necessarily mean they are young, they still need to master the tradecraft and gather “wisdom.” Many have now spent so much time overseas that they consider foreign assignments the “normal” way of doing business.