Intelligence Analyst Shortage

Intelligence agencies cope with shortage of analysts (CNN)

Counterterrorism agencies are shopping for talent at job fairs, dangling generous scholarships and luring staff from each other in a race to overcome a shortage of analysts that may only get worse in the new intelligence overhaul. The problem existed even before Congress and the White House approved an intelligence restructuring this month that creates positions for people whose skills already are in high demand.

There is no consensus across the nation’s 15 intelligence agencies on where staffing needs are the most acute. But few dispute that many more analysts are needed, particularly in the departments and agencies created since September 11, 2001. The nearly two-year-old Homeland Security Department is a prime example. “If you had a hundred, we’d take them,” Pat Hughes, the Homeland Security Department’s top intelligence official, said in an interview earlier this year. “We have to look, search, test, assess. You don’t just get analysts off a tree. … We need people, but we need good people.”

To find them, Homeland Security and other agencies are heading to job fairs, often looking near military bases where civil service is part of the culture and people may have security clearances. They’re also trying to snag people from the private sector.

The irony of this is that the hiring process still presumes that no shortage exists. Limiting the pool to people who have active clearances or who have graduated from training courses available only to insiders makes it virtually impossible to widen the pool.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:


    Your assumption about the hiring process is a bit outdated. The IC is sucking in large numbers of new hires who have no security clearance. They are issuing clearances as fast as they can. The problem now is motivating these new employees with meaningful work while they are undergoing training and initial OJT. Another problem is that once they receive their clearance, they automatically become attractive to other agencies or contractors and many jump at the chance to go work someplace else for higher salary. The only problem in the hiring pool is that they’re not getting enough people with the needed language skills and cultural backgrounds to fill the urgent requirements.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Most of the GS-13 and above listings are clearly written for prior service personnel retiring at the grade of 0-5 and above. There’s essentially no way one could acquire the highly specific experience and training courses otherwise. Simply having strong analytical skills, publications, education, and so forth wouldn’t pass the KSAs.

  3. DC Loser says:

    You are mostly correct. 90% of the new hires are in the GS-7 and 9 areas. A few with PhDs in scientific and technical fields get hired in as 12 or 13s and I’ve even seen a few at 14. It’s not a totally closed shop, but you do have to have a marketable skill to get in the door. Now this isn’t true of the entire IC. The military services are more prone to hire military retirees as a part of the good ol boy network. But the big 3 letter agencies take a more professional approach and recruit from a broader pool. And the proper way to write KSAs is an art all in itself.

  4. Jem says:

    Regrettably, the Intelligence Community still retains perhaps its greatest shortfall–even if it truly is expanding its pool slightly for the low-paid “analysts in training”. By restricting its senior leadership structure to people who’ve gained their experience through the traditional means, they also assure that the culture within the agencies will retain the traditional mindsets and prejudices that contributed to 9/11 and other recent failures.

    I wish I knew what to advise the Government–but it seems to me they need to figure out how to leverage what people like Michael Totten learn from traveling and what expatriots know through their experience and familial contacts as a check on the orthodoxies that emerge in the relatively closed societies of the various agencies.

  5. Jim says:

    One of the big problems is that starting with GS12 you are beginning to reach the mid-career level as opposed to entry level. The positions are allocated for people with IC experience: they know the culture and understand the various analytical techniques. Someone without IC experience (or at military experiece) has a termendous disadvantage.

    That being said one of the other drivers of the demand is the upcoming retirements of many experience analysts.

    I don’t know how to address Jem’s comments. One of the provisions of the new intelligence act that recently passed Congress is a system of ‘Joint’ assignments for analysts needed to make the upper levels of their various agencies. At the very least these assignments will help broaden their skill set and gain experience in the other agencies.

  6. DC Loser says:


    The “joint assignment” idea has been around since around for about 5 years. Right now you need experience with at least two different organizations to get into the SES grades, at least that’s the theory.


    The idea of recruiting people with extensive expat backgrounds and with familial ties overseas is a great one, but the security people absolutely hate it. These are the people that have the hardest time getting their security clearances. The IC is still institutionally suspicious of the very people they need, those with the most overseas experience and cultural understanding.

  7. Rob says:

    Are there any DISADVANTAGES to holding a security clearance?