Federal intelligence workforce must shed jobs, experts say

Federal intelligence agencies must make targeted staff reductions and boost employee performance in response to declining budgets, according to a report released Tuesday.

In the report from the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, a task force of current and former members of the intelligence community, recommended significant but strategic cuts to the workforce and programs over the next five years. Staffing levels increased in the last decade and are unsustainable in the current fiscal environment, according to the report.

The intelligence community should prepare for workforce reductions over the next five years and begin to map attrition plans rather than reacting as budget cuts occur, the report said.

According to Joan Dempsey, senior vice president at consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton and former intelligence official at the Defense Department, the intelligence community should make personnel reductions based on preserving important capabilities rather than across-the-board staff cuts without cooperation among agencies. People are the most important resource as well as the most expensive, she said, noting that the intelligence community must determine its workforce needs and the associated costs.

Though the staffing levels must decline over the next decade, the intelligence community should continue to hire young employees, the report said. Agencies also must recruit, train and retain experienced analysts, the task force agreed.

According to Dempsey, the intelligence community saw a significant hiring increase in the last decade, and much of the current staff is now moving into supervisory positions. The dearth of experienced managers ahead of them has created a teaching gap, however, leaving many without on-the-job management training.

Intelligence agencies also should assess employees based on contributions to the organization, experts agreed, noting that managers currently are unable to ease poor performers out of the workforce. Measuring performance is a step to making targeted reductions, they said.

"Personnel laws are designed to be fair from an individual standpoint, not for improving performance in all cases," Dempsey said. "It's very hard in government today to differentiate between best performers and least performers."

INSA President Ellen McCarthy noted that a lack of training is a particular challenge in standing up a performance-based personnel system. "You are taught to do your job, but not be the future leader of others," McCarthy said. "We don't have a community that can manage itself. In budget-constrained times, other programs take priority over training."

According to the report, members of the task force also were reluctant to support a broad reorganization of the intelligence structure. Rather, agencies should improve management as it currently exists and build around future requirements. The intelligence community also should integrate with and better support law enforcement functions, particularly at the Homeland Security Department, Dempsey said.

"Fatigue has set in," said Dempsey. "There's a high price to pay for constant reorganization. If we were starting over, we would organize differently, but given the resources today there's not the appetite."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.