January 17, 2000
CIA Recruiting Drive Paying OffBy TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The magazine ad offers jobseekers "the ultimate international career," inviting applications from those with a college degree, an "adventurous spirit" and "a forceful personality."
"Do you have what it takes?" the advertisement asks in large type.
More and more college graduates are deciding they do - and signing up with the CIA.
While military recruitment is slumping and federal agencies are struggling to compete with the private sector's high salaries, the Central Intelligence Agency is reporting an increase in new hires.
What CIA Director George Tenet calls "the biggest recruiting drive since the end of the Cold War" appears to be paying off.
"We're getting great reception on college campuses and a lot of new people coming in the door. We're quite pleased," CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said.
Although the exact numbers are classified, agency officials said job offers extended by the CIA increased by 57 percent in 1998 over the year before, and rose by 53 percent in 1999. About 70 percent of those offers were accepted, the agency said.
The increases mark a dramatic turnaround from just a few years ago, when the spy agency was rife with reports of low morale and organizational drift and was losing many of its top professionals to the private sector.
Outside intelligence analysts believe CIA employment is up from the reported low of 16,000 of three years ago but still below the 20,000 level near the end of the Cold War.
Helping the revival: an image makeover engineered by Tenet and an infusion of money and effort into recruiting.
A jazzed-up Web site (www.cia.gov) now offers a virtual tour of the cloistered CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. A large multicolored eye on the "employment" link blinks "ACCESS APPROVED" to all cyber visitors.
The Web site lists about 50 positions, from computer scientist and interpreter to officers in the clandestine service (entry-level pay: $31,000 to $38,000).
The CIA recently created a Silicon Valley venture capital company to promote promising new technologies and invited young techno-wizards to apply for financing.
The agency also has been placing ads in magazines and major newspapers. The full-page "Do you have what it takes?" ad ran in last week's issue of The Economist magazine, for instance.
That ad specifically seeks new recruits for the CIA's clandestine overseas service, which it describes as "the cutting edge of American intelligence ... an elite corps."
CIA recruiters can be found on college campuses and in booths at job fairs. Tenet, director since 1997, helps with the recruiting himself, talking to potential applicants as he travels.
"We cannot offer you a private sector salary," Tenet told students recently at Georgetown University. "No one in the intelligence field worth his or her salt is in it for the money. But we can offer you a deeply challenging and satisfying vocation - and a mission unequaled anywhere in American society."
The CIA is "pitching the romance of intelligence" through its ads and recruiting spiels, but such appeals are misleading, said Steve Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington group that follows intelligence issues.
"A lot of these bright-eyed young people may be setting themselves up for disappointment in what is still a rather hidebound institution," Aftergood said.
"The CIA is appealing to young people's adventurous instincts," Aftergood said. "I think anyone who falls for that is not suited to be an intelligence officer."
But Rep. Norman Dicks of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee, said the fact that most CIA workers are office-bound does not detract from the agency's effort.
"Of course, not everybody there is a spy," Dicks said. "Many people are attracted to the element of service. The CIA has done a good job on using the Internet and being relevant to what kids are interested in."
Dicks said Congress has sought to "strengthen the agency" with recent increases in intelligence spending.
Those familiar with the budget put the intelligence authorization bill approved by Congress last fall at about $29.5 billion for fiscal 2000, up considerably from the $26.7 billion level of 1998, when the government last disclosed the amount.
The CIA has made recruitment and retention top priorities, agency spokesman Harlow said. To help cut through bureaucratic complexities, "our recruiters have been given the authority to make conditional offers on the spot," he said.
"If someone comes up and says, 'I'm a computer programer, I'm interested in foreign affairs and I speak Mandarin Chinese,' ... that person should know they could have a career with us."