Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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A Much-Needed Push on Intelligence
Mike McConnell, the director for national intelligence, recently announced a significant revision in how members of the Intelligence Community will be paid.

Rather than rewarding employees for simply putting in time, the new pay system seeks to reward performance. As McConnell said, you usually get the behavior you reward.

It is undoubtedly something of a risk, but there is little doubt that it is vitally necessary as a way to reward innovation and those who take a modicum of risk in their jobs, as well as show superior competence.

This is particularly true given the massive drain of the old guard in the Community following 9/11. One of the complaints and criticisms of the old system, which was clearly broken, was that it could not reward competence. People rose through the ranks and were rewarded largely by how long they could stick around.

One of the truly alarming figures in assessing the intelligence community across the board is that more than half have five years of experience or less. The youth and lack of field experience of many of today's intelligence operatives is a significant source of concern among allied services and the few that remain who have more than 20 years of experience.

In order to help insure those people stay on a career track where they can gain experience and provide seasoned leadership, the pay system had to be reworked. Of particular importance is the flexibility so a unit member can earn as much as a supervisor.

This should help eliminate some of the constant pressure felt by good field agents who see their only course of advancement as switching over to management positions, whether that is their strength or not.

In some ways, the Community has been a victim of its own success and the inability of al Qaeda and its allies to carry out more attacks on U.S. soil.

As the attacks recede in memory, the walls among different part of the Community that had been broken do to a significant degree, are now back in place. My friends in the Community are often dismayed by how little of the initial progress remains, and how dominant turf fights and rigid institutional priorities have reasserted themselves.

The decision to reward performance, make it easier for people to move around inside the Community and help people stay in the jobs they are best at, is an important part of rebuilding the Community for the long term.

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