April 28, 2010: The CIA (American Central Intelligence Agency) is going to try and make fact catch up with fiction. The fiction, as shown in movies, TV and novels, that the CIA is a high tech operation that knows all and has all its highly skilled staff constantly in communication with each other. The reality is that the CIA has lots of information, but not all that it needs. Getting instant access to a lot of that information is so time consuming (bureaucracy and cumbersome data systems) to be, for all practical purposes, impossible (for instant, or even timely, access). Communications between the analysts and field operatives is also slowed, or even blocked, by the needs of bureaucracy, protocol and agency politics.
The new CIA effort is going to try and change all that. Internal procedures are being revised to make data easier to get by analysts, and for analysts to have an easier time connecting with the field operatives they are supporting. The CIA is also going to form teams of analysts and field operatives. They will share the same workplace, either back at Langley (CIA headquarters) or overseas. While the field agents are often, well, out in the field, they do come back to Langley or overseas offices regularly. The new policy (which has been informally adopted in the past), will make sure that everyone on the same team knows that, and gets to see their team mates regularly.
Money will be spent on new equipment (communications, computers and other gadgets) to make the new links, and information access, a reality. More money is being spent on teaching staff foreign languages and the fine points of other cultures. Meanwhile, inside the agency, many wonder how the CIA bureaucracy, which is quite imaginative and innovative in its own perverse way, will screw this up.
But if it does work, it will mean all that 007s and Jack Bauers in the agency will finally have a shot at doing the job like it's done in the movies. If that happens, it will be easier to recruit and retain the most capable people. Meanwhile, as some in the CIA may have already noted, commercial firms have organized their information gathering operations like this for years. But until recently, no one in charge at the CIA thought this worthy of note. That despite the fact that the CIA has obtained most of its analysis, and even field operations, gear from commercial applications.