Today's competitive job market is defined not by the institution, but by the free agent. The federal intelligence community has become a place where the millennials learn spying tradecraft, obtain a coveted top-level security clearance and then bolt to contractors for heftier paychecks. This has become so common that intelligence observers now fear it could become the career path of choice - break into the private sector via the government.There's a similar problem for many clubs in soccer. Unless you are Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United, Milan or a handful of other clubs, your players would likely jump at the chance to be picked up by a bigger club. The solution has been to sign players to longer contracts - for example, MLS's policy is to sign players picked up through the draft to four year contracts. While this can lead to some unhappiness when college players making $13,000 turn out to be good enough so that they're keeping senior players paid $150,000 on the bench, it means that European teams aren't waiting for MLS to discover college players and then snapping them up as soon as they figure out which ones are decent. The idea is that after the player has only a year left on his contract, he'll either be sold to a bigger club in Europe, or he'll have the leverage to negotiate for a higher salary.
Could this work in the Intelligence Community? Maybe. Think of MLS as the Intelligenc Community, and "big clubs in Europe" as the beltway bandits.
Already agencies in the IC give out scholarships to students in exchange for a pledge to work a certain number of years for that agency. Why couldn't they do the same thing for the security clearance process and training? i.e., the CIA could say "if you get a security clearance, you have to work for us for five years."
This wouldn't solve the larger problem of poor management, especially at agencies like the DIA, that leads to the loss of much more experienced personnel (I'm taking Larry Johnson's word on this), and it wouldn't the problem of a lack of middle-aged analysts that the GovExec article talksa bout. But a lot of my friends are aiming to get internships and jobs not with the CIA, DIA, NSA or other agencies, but with contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton. Internships at the CIA and State Department are unpaid, whereas the internship with Booz Allen pays between $23 and $26 per hour. We'd be a lot less valuable to beltway bandits if we didn't have security clearances that we got from internships and short job stints with actual government agencies, and the IC would be better off if it was able to get the guaranteed benefit of, say, five years of work after giving us security clearances and training.
Or they could, ya know, pay people in the Intelligence Community competitive wages.
Tip o' the hat to Wired's blog "Danger Room."