Saturday, May 30, 2009

CIA seeks to broaden foreign language skills

Updated at: 0927 PST, Saturday, May 30, 2009

WASHINGTON: The CIA is undertaking a five-year plan to boost the agency's fluency in foreign languages, Director Leon Panetta said Friday.

Less than a third of CIA analysts and overseas spies are proficient in a foreign language and Panetta said he aims to raise foreign language proficiency inside the CIA to at least half of all analysts and intelligence operatives within the next five years.

"Whether an officer is conducting a meeting in a foreign capital, analyzing plans of a foreign government, or translating a foreign broadcast, language capability is critical to every aspect of our mission," Panetta said.

The actual numbers those percentages represent in CIA employees are classified because the number of agency employees is secret. But agency officials say its staff suffers shortages in some of world's critical languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Pushto, Urdu and Persian.

The CIA will both increase language training and recruit Americans who already speak the necessary foreign languages. Panetta said the initiative would require significant new funding, but did not specify an amount.

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