The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Hire, Train, and Retain Intelligence Analysts
Audit Report 05-20
Office of the Inspector General
Intelligence analysis is critical to the mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), especially in light of the changed priorities of the FBI after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After September 11, the FBI’s need to add professional intelligence staff to improve its ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate threat information was well-recognized. Various terrorism-related commissions and congressional testimony have commented that the FBI’s limited intelligence capability was extremely limited.1
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) previously discussed the FBI’s analytical program in its September 2002 report on the management of the FBI’s counterterrorism program.2 At that time, some FBI managers told the OIG that the FBI’s analytical capability was “broken.” Our review found the FBI had difficulty pulling information together from a variety of sources, analyzing the information, and disseminating it. In other words, the FBI lacked the ability to “connect the dots” or establish relationships among varied pieces of information. Moreover, the FBI lacked the capability to prepare a strategic or “big picture” threat assessment. Our report concluded that the FBI lacked a professional corps of intelligence analysts with a defined career path, standards for training or experience, and a system for effectively deploying and utilizing analysts to assess priority threats at either the tactical (investigative or operational) level or the strategic (long-term or predictive) level.
Senior FBI officials, including the FBI Director, who was newly appointed at the time of the September 11 attacks, acknowledged the FBI’s previous analytical shortcomings. In congressional testimony, the FBI Director articulated that a strong enterprise-wide intelligence program is not only key to the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts but is critical to all investigations, including criminal, counterintelligence, and cyber investigations. He noted that the FBI had long been a leader in gathering information, but in the past did not elevate the analytical process above an individual case or investigation. He stated that after September 11, 2001, the FBI was focused not just on collecting information, but on analyzing it, connecting it to other vital information, and disseminating it widely. To accomplish this, the Director emphasized the continuing development of the FBI’s intelligence program, including a dramatic expansion in the number of intelligence analysts.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has made and continues to make progress toward bolstering its intelligence analysis capabilities to help meet the FBI’s top priority of preventing future attacks. In January 2003, the FBI Director authorized the position of Executive Assistant Director (EAD) for Intelligence, and established an Office of Intelligence to manage the FBI’s intelligence program.3 This new office began an intensive effort to recruit, train, and utilize well-qualified intelligence analysts. For example, as of July 2004 the number of FBI analysts had grown to 1,272, a 24 percent increase over Fiscal Year (FY) 2002. As of mid-2004, the FBI had assigned 49 percent of all analysts to field offices, 42 percent to operational divisions at FBI headquarters – such as the Counterterrorism Division – and 9 percent to other FBI entities such as the Information Technology Centers.4
The OIG initiated this audit to review the FBI’s progress in building the analytical corps. We reviewed the FBI’s efforts in hiring, selecting, training, and retaining intelligence analysts. As part of the audit, we specifically reviewed the FBI’s: 1) progress made toward meeting analyst hiring goals; 2) analyst hiring requirements; 3) progress made toward establishing a comprehensive training program and meeting the training goals; 4) analyst staffing and utilization to support the FBI’s mission; and 5) progress toward retaining analysts.
To perform this audit, we interviewed officials from the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Joint Military Intelligence College. We interviewed FBI intelligence analysts at six FBI field offices and at FBI Headquarters. We also conducted a survey provided to all FBI intelligence analysts. Finally, we reviewed FBI documents related to the management of the analytical corps, including the Human Talent for Intelligence Production Concept of Operations (Human Talent CONOPS), which describes the FBI’s plan for building its intelligence analysis capability.5
In sum, our review found that the FBI has made significant progress in hiring and training quality analysts, although significant issues remain. Some of the significant improvements include:
However, we found areas that need improvement. Among those issues, we concluded that the FBI needs to:
Hiring Intelligence Analysts
As of September 30, 2004, the FBI employed 1,403 intelligence analysts.6 From the beginning of FY 2002 through July 8, 2004, the FBI hired 540 analysts. However, during that same period, 291 analysts left their positions for other jobs, either within the FBI or elsewhere. Overall, in the three years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI’s analytical corps increased by a net of 380 intelligence analysts, or 37 percent.
However, the FBI has not established formal annual goals for hiring intelligence analysts. Instead the FBI has used the number of additional analyst positions appropriated in its budgets as its hiring goals. The EAD for Intelligence said that the number of additional appropriated positions is a valid hiring goal because the budget process is how government organizations express their resource needs. By their nature, these de facto hiring goals were not based on attrition projections, hiring or training capacity, or other factors affecting the FBI’s ability to assimilate new analysts. For FY 2004, the hiring goal of 787 was based on the number of additional analyst positions allowed by the FY 2004 budget. As of July 2004, the FBI had only hired 22 percent of the analysts in its FY 2004 goal. Disregarding any attrition of analysts between July 8, 2004, and September 30, 2004, the FBI met 39 percent of its FY 2004 hiring goal. Because the FBI fell significantly short of its FY 2004 hiring goal, it ended FY 2004 with an intelligence analyst vacancy rate of 32 percent.7
The FBI’s Human Talent CONOPS for the FBI’s intelligence program recognizes that the success of the program depends on the quality of the analysts the FBI hires. In addition, the experience and skills of new analysts should help further the FBI’s new priorities. Currently in its hiring, the FBI emphasizes military intelligence experience, law enforcement experience, and foreign-language proficiency. Based on these criteria and the analysts’ educational levels, we found that the FBI has hired well-qualified analysts over the past three years. For example, analysts who started their employment with the FBI from 2002 through 2004 were much more likely to have an advanced degree than the analysts who started with the FBI before 2002. In addition to their educational qualifications, the analysts who started with FBI in 2002 through 2004 had other qualities that the FBI seeks, including a commitment to public service (Presidential Management Fellows), prior military intelligence or intelligence community experience, experience living abroad for an extended period, or foreign language proficiency.
Through interviews with FBI analysts and managers, we identified several impediments to hiring analysts and meeting the FBI’s hiring goals. Among the factors are attrition (discussed below), the lengthy hiring process, failure to pass the FBI background investigation, and the effect on analysts’ career paths of regulations covering federal position classification and grading.
FBI managers told us the primary impediment to hiring intelligence analysts was the hiring process itself. In particular, the FBI has generally received a good response to its job announcements for analysts. Until recently, the process of screening a large pool of applicants to identify the best-qualified candidates was time consuming and labor intensive. But in May 2004 the FBI streamlined its hiring process, and FBI officials said a new Internet-based hiring system appears to be much more efficient.
Once selected, applicants undergo a lengthy and detailed background investigation, including a polygraph examination and drug test. Many selected applicants either give up on the hiring process or “wash out” in the background investigation. FBI managers we interviewed said that applicants often lose patience with the FBI’s lengthy hiring process and accept other jobs.
In FYs 2002 and 2003, the FBI initiated 433 background investigations on potential analysts. During that same time, 210 background investigations were discontinued.8 In FYs 2002 - 2004, 58 percent of discontinued background checks occurred for substantive reasons uncovered in the course of the investigation, generally failing the polygraph examination or having a history of illegal drug use.
Another impediment to hiring well-qualified intelligence analysts cited by FBI managers was the requirement that the FBI comply with Title 5 of the U.S. Code, including those dealing with General Schedule (GS) pay grades.9 For example, Title 5 prevented the FBI from offering a non-supervisory GS-15 pay grade to its analysts. Other intelligence agencies are exempt from Title 5. According to the Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence and other FBI managers with whom we spoke, the restrictions of Title 5 prevented the FBI from developing an intelligence capability on par with other agencies comprising the United States Intelligence Community. Further, the same managers believed that the Title 5 regulations prevented the FBI from hiring a sufficient number of intelligence analysts or from retaining analysts once it hired them, and also prevented the FBI from placing any analysts at the GS-15 and Senior Executive Service pay levels. The ability to promote intelligence analysts to non-supervisory senior level positions can contribute to the hiring and retention of qualified intelligence analysts.
Recent legislation should substantially alleviate FBI managers’ concerns over the limitations of Title 5 and provide the FBI with greater flexibility to structure and compensate its analyst workforce. For example, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, approved in December 2004, exempts FBI intelligence analysts from the position classification and pay requirements of Title 5. Under the new law, the FBI Director, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has the authority to create intelligence analyst positions that do not meet all the requirements of Title 5. Similarly, the FBI Director may establish basic rates of pay for intelligence analyst positions without having to comply with Title 5.
In December 2004, the President signed an appropriations act entitled Making Appropriations for Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2005, and for Other Purposes (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005). The Consolidated Appropriations Act allows the FBI, in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget and OPM to pay up to an Executive Schedule I salary for personnel in high-level positions with skills critical to the FBI’s intelligence mission. The FBI is currently engaged in an extensive planning effort to implement the provisions of the Intelligence Reform Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Requirements and Staffing
As of July 2004, 49 percent of the FBI’s 1,272 analysts were assigned to field offices; 42 percent to operational divisions at FBI headquarters (such as the Counterterrorism Division); and 9 percent to other FBI entities such as Information Technology Centers, the Office of Intelligence, and the Critical Incident Response Group at Quantico, Virginia. In the field offices, the number of analysts varied from 1 (Springfield, IL) to 59 (New York, NY). The distribution of analysts by GS pay grade varied greatly by organizational unit. Analysts assigned to the operational units at FBI headquarters were most likely to be GS-14s. In contrast, analysts assigned to the field offices were most likely to be GS-11s.
However, the FBI has not determined the total number of intelligence analysts needed to meets its mission. We believe that a formal requirements determination is necessary to properly size and allocate the FBI’s analytical corps. Further, a rationally based requirements determination would help support the FBI’s budget requests, recruiting and hiring plans, and any necessary reallocation of analysts. The FBI’s Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence told the OIG that she recognizes the need for the FBI to link its allocation of analysts to current and evolving threats. After our field work was completed, the FBI’s Office of Intelligence began work on a formal requirements determination. However, the FBI has not yet completed an estimate of the number of analysts needed, nor has it finalized the methodology for doing so.
In addition to not determining the total number of intelligence analysts needed, prior to FY 2005 the FBI did not establish the total number of analyst positions available to the FBI as a whole in a given year. In the federal government, this number is known as the Funded Staffing Level (FSL). Without an FSL for analysts, the FBI could not determine the number of analyst vacancies or the distribution of those vacancies across FBI units. However, in September 2004, after the completion of our field work, the FBI established its first ever FSL for intelligence analysts. We did not evaluate the FBI’s FSL methodology.
Prior to FY 2005, the causes for both the lack of a sound methodology for determining the FBI’s intelligence analyst requirements and the longstanding lack of an FSL are closely linked. Both conditions relate to the FBI’s budget, which has provided FSLs for only two categories — special agents and support staff. The support staff category includes positions as diverse as clerk, intelligence analyst, forensic scientist, and attorney. Historically, FBI headquarters units and field offices have had wide flexibility in deciding the composition of their support staff. Thus, if an intelligence analyst resigned, FBI management could decide to replace the intelligence analyst with a financial analyst or some other category of support staff.
FBI intelligence analysts are trained at the FBI’s College of Analytical Studies, which was created among the changes in the FBI after the September 11 attacks. At that time, the FBI Director assigned the FBI’s Training and Development Division the responsibility for coordinating, developing, and implementing professional training for analysts throughout the FBI. In October 2001, the FBI formally established the College of Analytical Studies and gave it the following mission:
Until late 2004, the primary product of the College was the Basic Intelligence Analyst course, which was first held in FY 2002 and ran for five weeks. However, the basic course has had significant problems, resulting in poor attendance and frequent changes to the curriculum. From FY 2002 through April 2004, only 264 FBI intelligence analysts have attended the Basic Intelligence Analyst course, although the course is required of all analysts at some point — new hires and veterans alike.
Our interviews with intelligence analysts who had taken the basic course, and the results of our analyst survey, indicated that the course was not structured to sufficiently prepare intelligence analysts to perform their job. Over 60 percent said that the course did not meet their expectations, and only 6 percent of respondents said the course exceeded their expectations. The most frequently cited deficiency with the class was that it did not adequately address analysts’ daily work or the databases necessary to accomplish that work.
We also found that 75 percent of the analysts who had not attended the course did not want to attend, because they felt that the course repeated training they had already taken elsewhere. The desire not to attend the course is reflected in attendance statistics. While all analysts are required to attend the basic course, actual enrollment is voluntary. Our review of FBI data found that classes for FYs 2002 through 2004 were only about 56 percent full. According to College managers, the high vacancy rate resulted from analysts not being directed to attend a particular session of the class.
The Basic Intelligence Analyst course was replaced in September 2004 with a 7-week Analytical Cadre Educational Strategy 1 (ACES-1) course developed by the Office of Intelligence and a contractor. Under the auspices of the Office of Intelligence, the FBI Academy will be responsible for delivering the new course. The primary objective of ACES-1 is to produce graduates who have the skills and abilities needed to perform any of three general work roles of the FBI’s intelligence analysts: intelligence analyst, operations specialist, and reports officer.
In our opinion, the ACES-1 curriculum as a whole is generally well-balanced for an introductory intelligence analyst class. However, we have three concerns about the curriculum: 1) the amount of time spent on some subjects; 2) the number, length, and type of class exercises; and 3) computer training. We are concerned that the curriculum does not provide enough instruction in intelligence dissemination and intelligence assessment. We also were not able to determine the amount of time devoted to class exercises, an instructional method that analysts told us would be helpful. Further, ACES-1 will include what an FBI manager described as a limited amount of software training, none of which will be on classified computer systems.
Aside from the recent revamping of the curriculum, another challenge facing the FBI is the need to develop experienced FBI employees to teach in the College of Analytical Studies. Currently, most instructors are either contractors or personnel from other agencies. During interviews with intelligence analysts who had attended the basic course, we were told the students wanted to learn the FBI method of approaching different topics, and FBI faculty would be helpful in that regard.
Utilization of Intelligence Analysts
The FBI recognizes the need to enlarge and professionalize its analytical corps. While it is taking important steps to do so, the FBI must ensure that its analysts receive assignments that make the best use of their training and abilities.
The 9/11 Commission reported that prior to the September 11 attacks, FBI managers often did not properly use the qualified analysts the FBI had and instead often used them to answer phones and perform miscellaneous duties that did not involve analyzing or producing intelligence products. During our interviews with intelligence analysts in field offices, we found that, similar to the 9/11 Commission’s report, many analysts are still asked to perform duties that are not analytical in nature, such as escort, trash, and watch duty. As the name implies, escort duty is following visitors, such as contractors, around the FBI office to ensure that they do not compromise security. Trash duty involves collecting all “official trash” to be incinerated. Watch duty involves answering phones and radios. The Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence told us that FBI special agents and others also perform similar duties, which points more to a need for administrative assistance than to analysts being singled out for occasional non-analytical work.
Our survey found that the type of work done by FBI intelligence analysts varies depending on grade, years of experience, and location. On average, analysts reported spending 31 percent of their time on different types of administrative work, and they estimated that one-third of this administrative work was not related to their job. In addition, 25 percent of analysts in headquarters and 39 percent of analysts in the field reported they had not worked on any disseminated intelligence products in the three months that preceded our survey. We recognize that the intelligence analyst position involves work other than disseminated intelligence products. For example, identifying intelligence gaps is a key mission of intelligence analysts. The FBI told us that it uses 27 metrics to evaluate the performance of its intelligence operations. However, we believe that disseminated intelligence products is a good performance measure for intelligence analysts and indicates how analysts are being used. The Directorate of Intelligence’s Performance Metrics Plan also includes the number of intelligence products produced by each analyst as one of its measures of performance.
Our survey found that the vast majority of FBI intelligence analysts are generally satisfied with the work assignments they receive. However, certain categories of intelligence analysts are less satisfied with their work assignments than intelligence analysts as a whole: 1) analysts at headquarters are less satisfied than those in field offices; 2) analysts with advanced degrees are less satisfied than those without advance degrees; 3) analysts hired within the last three years are less satisfied than those who have been with the FBI for more than three years; and 4) analysts who have military intelligence experience, intelligence community experience, or are Presidential Management Fellows are less satisfied than those who do not have that experience.
For analysts voicing a lack of satisfaction with their work assignments, there were three primary reasons. First, analysts told us that FBI special agents do not always understand the capabilities or functions of intelligence analysts, and our survey results reflect this perception. Overall, 27 percent of respondents said special agents “rarely” or “never” understand the capabilities or functions of intelligence analysts. The analysts we interviewed, both at headquarters and in the field, also said that they believe this misunderstanding between agents and analysts could be mitigated by integrating at least part of new agent training with analyst training. Some analysts stated that an integrated case study, where agents and analysts work together to solve a case, would be helpful.
Second, most analysts are supervised by special agents. However, many analysts with whom we spoke believe that intelligence analysts should be supervised by their peers. They think that other analysts best know their functions and capabilities, and can therefore make the best use of the FBI’s analytical resources.
Third, both FBI managers and analysts said that the FBI does not have a sufficient number of administrative personnel and as a result are asked to handle administrative duties.
Retaining Intelligence Analysts
The strategic objective stated in the FBI’s Human Talent CONOPS is to “foster a well-educated, highly trained, appropriately sized, effective analytical work force.” To fully accomplish this objective, the FBI must focus on retaining those analysts currently on its staff who are well-educated, highly trained, and effective.
From the beginning of FY 2002 through July 8, 2004, 291 intelligence analysts left the FBI’s analytical corps. Of the 291 analysts, 165 left the FBI entirely. The remaining 126 took other positions within the FBI. The turnover rate for intelligence analysts has decreased for two consecutive fiscal years, from 10 percent in FY 2002 to 9 percent in FY 2003 and 8 percent in FY 2004.10 The EAD for Intelligence told us she was pleased with the 8 percent turnover rate in FY 2004 because the rate declined from the previous year and because she believes this rate compares favorably with the rest of the intelligence community.11 We attempted to compare the turnover rate of FBI intelligence analysts with that of the DIA and the CIA. However, both agencies declined to provide us with the classified data to perform that calculation. While the turnover rate for FBI intelligence analysts has decreased each of two past fiscal years, the number of FBI intelligence analysts leaving the analytical corps, either by transferring to other jobs in the FBI or leaving the FBI entirely, increased 10 percent from FY 2002 to FY 2004. During that same period, the number of intelligence analysts leaving the FBI entirely increased 79 percent, from 42 in FY 2002 to 75 in FY 2004.
In our survey, 22 percent of the FBI’s current intelligence analysts reported that they do not plan on staying with the FBI as analysts beyond the next 5 years. Among analysts hired since FY 2002, 35 percent do not plan to remain. Only 16 percent of newly hired analysts said they are very likely to stay for the next 5 years.
Our survey found that analysts have several reasons for not intending to stay with the FBI beyond the next five years. The reason most often cited is retirement, but other reasons such as pay, promotion potential, work assignments, and a lack of respect for the intelligence analyst position in the FBI are also frequently cited.
While the turnover rate for FBI intelligence analysts is not excessive, we are concerned about the effect attrition may have on the FBI’s efforts to build a well-qualified analytical corps. The loss of analysts hinders the FBI’s efforts to meet its hiring goal and to provide sufficient numbers of analysts to support its intelligence requirements.
The FBI’s Human Talent CONOPS does not address the retention of analysts; however, the Office of Intelligence told us it is actively managing the retention of intelligence analysts by activities such as constantly monitoring the attrition rate and surveying intelligence analysts to understand their career needs. Given the anticipated high attrition rate for analysts hired in the last three years, we believe the FBI should develop a formal strategy for retaining qualified intelligence analysts.
In our report, we make 15 recommendations to the FBI regarding improvements the FBI can make to its efforts to build a high quality corps of intelligence analysts that meets the FBI’s intelligence needs. With regard to the FBI’s efforts to hire intelligence analysts, our recommendations focus on the need for the FBI to develop hiring goals and to ensure that those hiring goals are based on the FBI’s ability to hire, train, and assimilate intelligence analysts. Our recommendations to the FBI on its intelligence analyst requirements focus on ensuring that the FBI’s allocation of intelligence analysts and forecasted need for intelligence analysts are based on current and forecasted threats. To improve the quality of the FBI’s introductory analyst training, we recommend that the FBI carefully evaluate its new ACES-1 course and ensure that the classes are well attended. To help ensure that intelligence analysts do more analytical work, we recommend that the FBI carefully assess the work done by intelligence analysts (and hire additional support personnel if necessary) and train special agents on the role of analysts. Finally, we recommend that the FBI take additional steps to improve the retention of intelligence analysts, including conducting exit interviews of analysts who leave the FBI and developing a retention plan aimed at keeping its current high quality analysts.