CIA Director Panetta Presents Foreign Language Excellence Award
March 17, 2010
In a ceremony held last week at CIA Headquarters, Director Leon E. Panetta presented the Foreign Language Excellence Award to an undercover officer whose superior foreign language skills contributed significantly to the Agency’s intelligence mission over the past year. Her proficiency led directly to the recruiting of assets from a country of priority interest to the United States.
“Strengthening the CIA’s language capability is one of my top priorities,” said Director Panetta. “Language is a window into other cultures. We can’t succeed without it.”
Ten Agency officers from across the CIA’s four directorates were nominated for the annual award. Seven of the ten joined the Agency between 2003 and 2005. As a group, they speak eight mission-critical languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, Korean, and Pushto. Some are native speakers while others earned their proficiency in college or after joining the CIA.
In 2009, Director Panetta launched a five-year initiative to double the number of analysts and collectors with foreign language proficiency and to transform the Agency’s language training. In January, Director Panetta made foreign language aptitude a stricter requirement for promotion to the Senior Intelligence Service.
Last year, the number of CIA officers capable in foreign languages rose nine percent. “The key is to keep that momentum going,” said Director Panetta. “The more officers we have who can speak the languages of our foreign partners, our agents, and our adversaries, the more likely we are to acquire the information we need. It’s that simple.”