WASHINGTON – WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA will spend millions of dollars over the next five years to improve intelligence gathering, upgrade technologies and enable analysts to work more closely with spies in the field, under a new plan laid out Monday.
The plan renews the agency's year-old goal to increase the number of analysts and overseas operatives fluent in another language — a problem that has plagued military and civilian intelligence officers throughout much of the last decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said the changes will help the agency better battle emerging national security dangers, including terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyber threats. U.S. intelligence agencies have come under fire in recent months for perceived lapses that let a suicide bomber infiltrate a CIA base in Afghanistan and an alleged would-be bomber to board a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas.
According to Panetta, one key goal is to put more CIA analysts in the same location as the intelligence operatives — a system that has worked well for the agency in war zones. Historically, the two groups were separated, but that has been changing. By working in the same place, officials say, analysts and spies can exchange information and guidance more efficiently.
Currently analysts and operatives work together in war zones and in teams at CIA headquarters, but Panetta said it should happen more widely. In their limited work together, the analysts and spies have combined on such critical issues as counterterrorism, counterproliferation and Iran.
U.S. intelligence officials have said such combined operations overseas helped officials identify the site of a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment plant in Iran, near the holy city of Qom.
Panetta also repeated Monday his intent to beef up the agency's foreign language capabilities by doubling the number of clandestine officers enrolled in language training and tripling the number of analysts in that training. A year ago, less than a third of CIA analysts and overseas spies were proficient in a foreign language, and that percentage still holds today.
The exact numbers and specific languages are classified but agency officials have said that they are lacking in key languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Pushto, Urdu and Persian.
Panetta also said he will get more advanced technologies and software to help gather and sift through the vast amounts of intelligence coming in.
Exact spending totals were unavailable. The CIA budget is classified.