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USA Today: Despite heavy recruitment CIA still short on bilingual staff April 19, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Translation Sites.
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There is an interesting article on the USA Today website about how only “13% of CIA employees speak a foreign language nearly five years after the 9/11 Commission urged the agency to expand its ranks of bilingual operatives and analysts to help thwart future terrorist attacks.”

I found it particularly interesting to read that the CIA is using recruitment tools such as “Internet ads on YouTube and Facebook.” That is sure to be an effective way to find qualified employees to perform confidential and top secret duties (NOT!).

The article is very critical that the CIA still has not made significant progress recruiting bilingual employees eight years after 9/11. Considering the fact that President Bush ordered the CIA to boost its ranks of foreign language speakers by 50% back in 2004 this seems like an Epic Fail to me, but then again what do I know? I got fed up working for the federal government a long time ago.

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Comments»

1. Corinne McKay - April 20, 2009

Great link! I think it’s definitely a multifactorial issue as we used to say in Psychology class! You take the pool of U.S. citizens who are fluent in at least two languages (already small), and then subtract those who are able/willing to pass a background check and able/willing to comply with the logistical requirements of government work such as where you live and travel to and it’s not hard to see why it’s so hard to attract people who already have a successful freelance business.

2. MT - April 20, 2009

The main reason why federal agencies can’t hire enough bilingual folks is they don’t pay enough. Going rates for government translation, for instance, are 4-6 cents per word…

3. Judy Jenner - April 21, 2009

Very interesting. We hear frequently about the State Department not having a solid base of top-notch Arabic translators, and looks like the CIA is in the same boat. From what I hear, it’s no wonder, as you have to jump through many a hoop to work for the federal government.

4. Lars - April 21, 2009

Quite disturbing if you ask me. Did they take 9/11 seriously at all? The importance of having good people that know languages should be obvious.

5. Joe - April 22, 2009

Very revealing (if not disturbing) link. Makes me wonder how safe we truly are.

6. Asif Nawaz - July 3, 2009

Most of the recruiters of government agencies are either following CYA policy (Cover Your Ass) policy, scared to make a mistake, as a result hesitant to recruit the real talent which is in this case foreign born naturalized US citizens. Also, some recruiters are biased and looking for talented blue eye blondes or if there is a minority recruiter they would prefer their kind only i.e. from deep inside a black will prefer black only, Hispanic will prefer Hispanic only, Asian will prefer Asian only. This preference and favoritism is natural but this screws-up the merit and hiring based on performance and potential. Also, in case of Arabic linguists, there is a stereotyping and bias against the Muslim religion and Islam; if you talk to a common person, one would say all the Muslims are terrorists. So where will they bring a perfect Arabic linguist.
Moreover, government bureaucracy has made the hiring process such complicated and long that they are looking for angels neglecting the fact that almost all our senators would fail the litmus test.
We have become true shit scared hypocrites who want to fight against the evil by just saying that we are doing our best, and then make a long talk to create a false hope to satisfy ourselves. We don’t want to think as an American. We want to think as a Democrat, Republican, Conservative, or Liberal and think that we are the only right ones. This is what takes a nation down.


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