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A Small but Important Step at the CIA
In an interview published in today's Washington Post CIA director Michael V. Hayden made a small but extremely important comment on how he plans to change the agency, particularly the analysis side. He said expertise and "time on target" would be rewarded, rather than just moving analysts around from one area to another, prizing generalists over specialists.

Within the intelligence community culture, those who specialized in a region or topic have traditionally had a limited career track and a slim chance of moving up the ladder. Now, said Hayden, rewards "could now go to someone who has been looking at Iran for 14 years."

This is a vitally importance paradigm shift, one that almost every reform commission on intelligence has recommended. In an era where the primary collection targets-radical Islam and China-require extensive language and cultural skills, as well as knowledge, the routine rotation after a few months or years often simply served to perpetrate ignorance.

None of the skills necessary to understand radical Islam-its variants, teachings, use of language, family and organizational networks-can be acquired in a few months or even a few years.

China, likewise, is a multi-headed creature with a host of exploding global interests (particularly in the areas of energy and weapons sales) that will directly compete with the strategic U.S. interestes. They are skilled in counter-intelligence (where the U.S. remains virtually incapacitated), their language, political structure and factions are not something one can learn in a few months or years.

If we do not give our analysts time to develop a deep understanding of these and other new and crucial issues, we are depriving ourselves of the skills we need to know and combat enemies and potential enemies. These and other new challenges may require a person to spend virtually their entire career on one relatively small segment of the world. The community must be able to assimilate and reward those who make the effort.

Hayedn also pledged to work to lessen the segmentation within the agency, between the DO and DI. This would also be a welcome and long overdue change. Not only are the operational and analytical sides segregated but within each of those directorates people tend to be specialized to such a degree that it is very difficult for them to see outside their narrow boxes.

This is the way the system has worked for decades and Hayden will likely meet resistence as he tries to push these changes through. Painful as they are, the changes are vital to having an intelligence community that can understand and report on threats for which we remain unprepared.

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