CIA Director Panetta Honors Excellence in Foreign Language
April 4, 2011
In a ceremony held last week at CIA Headquarters, Director Leon E. Panetta presented the Foreign Language Excellence Award to an undercover senior officer who used his near-native fluency in three languages to run operations overseas in the past year. Established in 2008, the award recognizes the exceptional use of languages by Agency officers and reflects the CIA’s emphasis on increasing the foreign language skills of its workforce.
“Officers at our Headquarters and in the field use their language skills to help design operations, identify leads, and pursue potential sources,” said Director Panetta. “They enhance our access and get us closer to our hardest targets.”
As a group, the award nominees speak seven mission-critical languages, such as Russian, Dari, Pushto, Chinese, and Arabic. They work in CIA’s core disciplines both at Headquarters and in the foreign field. Together, their work has made a decisive difference to the Agency’s vital intelligence mission. The winner received $10,000 and the two runners-up were awarded $5,000 each.
Director Panetta said “their diverse accomplishments prove that all of our core areas—collection, analysis, technical operations, and support—are more effective because we have people who read, speak, and understand the nuances of other languages.”
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. Last year, he made foreign language aptitude a stricter requirement for promotion to the Senior Intelligence Service. And in a national summit in December, Director Panetta brought together policymakers, members of Congress, Intelligence Community officials, and leading language educators from across the country to focus on this critical area.
The number of Agency collectors and analysts with a foreign language has grown by almost 13 percent since the initiative was announced. Last year, more than a quarter of CIA’s new hires claimed at least some foreign language proficiency.
“Strengthening the CIA’s language capability has been a top priority for me since I became Director,” said Director Panetta. “It’s crucial to our mission and to meeting the expectations of those we serve.”