September 03, 2002
MORE FBI RECRUITMENT PROBLEMS: I mentioned below that the FBI is having problems recruiting people with foreign-language skills. It's also having trouble recruiting people with computer skills, for somewhat similar reasons. This has troubling implications for the FBI's future as a lead antiterrorism agency.
Either the FBI needs to address its hiring and retention problems, or we need to find (or create) another agency to handle antiterrorism.
UPDATE: In response to this post and the earlier one, a reader from the intelligence community writes:
Agree that the minor drug usage you and others cite is a silly reason to dismiss an FBI applicant during a national emergency.
Their narrow-mindedness may not, however, totally explain the shortage. I'd think the largest source of language-trained young (under 37) for the FBI (and other govt agencies) is former military linguists. With the intelligence organizations (biggest users) having been largely pared down to about half their former size since 1991, we don't produce near the number of linguists that we once did therefore the pool of available trained linguists (with security background checks) for the FBI would also be smaller. Even those who got out during the draw-down would have been out long enough now that they'd need new security checks to get back to work in the classified world if the FBI comes calling. That's forced them to go public with recruiting but with their moral standards, are coming up short on numbers.
A solution, however, would be to language train existing FBI agents. When I attended Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, CA, I went through Russian with 5 FBI officers (concern then was Russian mafia). If the FBI is really interested in getting more agents up to speed linguistically, they could increase the flow of already-hired (and security-cleared) agents through DLI. If counter-terrorism is indeed their #1 priority and arab-speakers are the #1 threat, shouldn't we be able to pull some trained agents away from former #1 efforts to focus on Middle East language study?
Yes, that's a bit of a long pipeline (12-13 months for arabic) but if they had gotten started in Oct 01, they'd almost be there by now!
Excellent point. And maybe they're doing that, but if they are it hasn't gotten any coverage that I've seen.