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CIA Ups Foreign Language Requirements for Top Staff

Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta (left) announced Friday that the CIA is raising language requirements for employees looking to be promoted to the top ranks of the agency, the Senior Intelligence Service.

Panetta sent a note to CIA staff saying he expects these high-ranking employees "to lead the way in strengthening this critical expertise."

"While many senior Agency officers have tested proficient in a foreign language over the course of their careers, some have not kept their skills current," the CIA said in a release. "Under the new policy, promotions to SIS for most analysts and operations officers will be contingent on demonstrating foreign language competency. If an officer is promoted to SIS and does not meet the foreign language requirement within one year, he or she will return to their previous, lower grade. This is a powerful incentive to maintain and improve skills critical to the Agency's global mission."

Panetta said the change will allow the CIA to be "better positioned to protect our nation in the years ahead."

"Deep expertise in foreign languages is fundamental to CIA's success," he said. "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."

As part of a five-year initiative, the CIA is working to double the number of analysts and collectors who proficient in a foreign language, expand the number of officers proficient in "mission-critical languages," including Arabic, Pushto, and Urdu, and make language skills more central in CIA hiring decisions.

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