CIA launches ambitious program to improve agency’s foreign language proficiency

May 30th, 2009 - 7:02 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 30(ANI): The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has launched an ambitious program to double the number of analysts proficient in languages, which it deems critical in the fight against America’s enemies.

It was done five years after 9/11 Commission faulted inadequate language skills among its employees.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, announced the new initiative in an acknowledgement of the agency’s slow progress in adding employees fluent in languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

“To gather intelligence and understand a complex world, the CIA must have more officers who read, speak, and understand foreign languages,” Panetta said.

Panetta unveiled plans for recruiting more officers fluent in foreign languages and for retraining thousands of current employees, using the agency’s in-house “CIA University.

“The agency will offer night classes and online training, and will enable new recruits to study languages while awaiting security clearance. In addition to doubling the number of officers competent in certain “mission-critical” languages, the agency seeks to increase by 50 percent the number of analysts fluent in the dialect of the culture or region to which they are assigned,” Panetta said.

The CIA had recently reported that a small fraction of its overall workforce, about 13 percent, is fluent in a second language.

Among officers of the agency’s National Clandestine Service, to which most foreign-deployed officers are assigned, the figure is about 30 percent.

The 9/11 Commission had identified lack of skilled translators as a factor in the U.S. government’s failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The commission found that, had the intercepted communications been translated on time, the U.S. officials could have been alerted.”The foreign-language deficit is a government-wide problem that reflects flaws in the security-clearance process. Often, CIA job applicants who are fluent in key languages have been turned away because they have relatives living in countries where terrorists are known to operate,” said Amy Zegart, an expert on intelligence reform and an associate professor at the University of California. (ANI)

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