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Home  > Article

Interview with Jami Miscik of the CIA

By Black Collegian

Jami Miscik is Deputy Director for Intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The CIA is in the midst of a major recruitment effort. For the next several years, the Agency will be a major employer of graduates from diverse backgrounds, as well as a variety of academic disciplines. As part of this effort, Ms. Miscik invited the BLACK COLLEGIAN to Washington, D.C., to talk about the CIA and the job opportunities it offers.

Many graduates have either overlooked or not considered the CIA as a source for paid internships and jobs. From the information that Jami Miscik provides in her interview, you may determine for yourselves that your academic backgrounds, talents, and career goals and aspirations are a good match for a career in intelligence analysis at the CIA.

THE BLACK COLLEGIAN (TBC): Why was the CIA created? What was its purpose then and now?

Jami Miscik (JM): Convinced that the United States needed a stronger intelligence capability than it had before Pearl Harbor, President Harry Truman created the CIA in 1947. He saw it as an organization that could take information of all kinds flowing in from overseas, collate and analyze it, and give the President the best picture of events and trends abroad. Not to make policy, but to inform it.

We still do that today. When we try to determine the intentions of a foreign government or terrorist group, we typically have only bits and pieces of the puzzle to work with--an overheard conversation or intercepted message, a satellite photograph or an agent's report. CIA was built to be the place where all those pieces come together, where we have the greatest chance of making sense of them. Some people are surprised to learn that the CIA has very few political appointees - fewer than five - unlike the Department of State or Defense. The CIA was built to serve the President, whoever that may be, regardless of party affiliation. Because the CIA is not political and not part of any policy-making agency or department, we really have the ability to "call it as we see it."

TBC: What are some of the threats to America the CIA is targeting now? What is the role of the Directorate of Intelligence in the mission of the CIA?

JM: The CIA works in dangerous and dynamic environments. From fighting terrorism to taking down proliferation networks or warning of the next international humanitarian crisis, we focus on threats to our nation's security and foreign interests and the social, economic, and political tensions that fuel them. We are meeting this convergence of threats with an essential mix of urgency and longer-term vision. As we continue our effort to disrupt and destroy terrorist groups around the globe, we are working in close coordination with domestic agencies to protect Americans here at home. These efforts complement our constant monitoring and analysis of events and trends throughout the world.

The central task of the DI is to provide analysis to US officials--policymakers, war fighters, negotiators, law enforcement officials--to help them deal more effectively with substantive uncertainty, and especially to provide timely warning of military attacks and other threats to US national security interests. Tactical (incident) warning and strategic analysis of new developments and trends are major responsibilities of the DI, in particular on front-burner issues such as terrorism, political instability, and weapons proliferation. Analysts in the DI provide their assessments to senior policymakers in written products as well as oral briefings.

TBC: How did you start your career with the CIA and what has been your career path?

JM: I joined the agency in 1983 as an economic analyst working on Third World debt issues. I subsequently led Directorate of Intelligence's analysis on political instability, economic competitiveness, and civil technologies. From 1995 to 1996, I was assigned to the National Security Council as the Director for Intelligence Programs where I had oversight responsibility for covert action programs and special reconnaissance missions. From 1996 to 1997, I was Executive Assistant to George Tenet, then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. In January 1998, I became the Deputy Director of the DCI's Nonproliferation Center and in January 1999, Director of the Office of Transnational Issues. I was named Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence in August 2000 and Deputy Director for Intelligence in May 2002.

TBC: When you are dealing with such an important mission, what type of people, skills, and traits do you look to hire for the Directorate of Intelligence? What types of training do you offer?

JM: We need people who have the knowledge, expertise, and confidence to speak truth to power. Some skills are particularly useful to our work. They include the following:

  • Critical Thinking: the ability to organize information, to see inconsistencies/outliers in that information, and to question conventional wisdom.
  • An ability to communicate your findings accurately and succinctly. Analysts also need strong writing and briefing skills and confidence in speaking and presenting your findings to policymakers and Congressional leaders.
  • A mature knowledge and understanding of international issues either through academic specialization in areas studies, international economics, engineering; and language skills or through living overseas. Continuous learning by reading and absorbing current events is also important.

Today, our analysts must make sense of a world that is more complicated and less and less predictable than it ever has been in our history. And to do it, they must master and exploit a flood of data from an ever-wider range of sources of information. The DI's Sherman Kent School gives DI analysts the training they need for the vital, demanding, and exciting profession of intelligence analysis.

TBC: How has 9/11 affected your hiring needs?

JM: Our hiring requirements increased dramatically right after 9/11 and are still growing. We foresee that level of hiring continuing through the next several years. I invite your readers to visit our website at www.cia.gov for more, detailed information on the types of academic majors we are looking for and our hiring requirements.

TBC: Many of our readers are actively pursuing work with global organizations that tout creating cutting edge technology, offer excellent advancement opportunities and give great training and educational opportunities. How does the CIA compete with these top employers for top candidates?

JM: Intelligence analysts in the DI make profound and lasting contributions to our national security. Our mission is critical to the security of our nation. The men and women who work at the CIA are incredibly committed to this mission, and they reap tremendous satisfaction from knowing that what they do really matters. There aren't many jobs available to graduates where one knows that there is a chance that the President will be reading what he or she writes.

Our ability to compete with top employers rests with our unique and compelling mission and with our commitment to the well-being of our employees and their career development.

TBC: What are some of the careers available to high achievers as they move through the CIA?

JM: When a new analyst is first hired they go through an extensive training program to teach them the skills they need to be a good intelligence officer and analyst. Analysts are then assigned to an account - it could be following political developments in a country, studying the leadership of a region, assessing the terrorists' movements, or analyzing a weapons system. Once on the job, the analyst begins doing their utmost to penetrate a complex issue and to find the most important factors that policymakers need to know. Once they have mastered their issues, analysts have a wide array of career options, including serving overseas, doing a rotation to a policymaking agency, working in the Directorate of Operations, or becoming a regular morning briefer for the National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, or even the President.

DI analysts can ultimately choose one of two career paths: substantive expert in our Senior Analytic Service or management. Which of these options our analysts choose is very personal and dependent upon individual interests, skills, and career goals. Both career tracks, however, offer our employees the opportunity to rise to senior-most ranks within the DI.

TBC: Why is diversity important at the DI?

JM: To truly achieve the best possible Directorate of Intelligence, I think that the Directorate has to reflect the diversity that gives our country one of its greatest strengths. For me, incorporating a variety of viewpoints into our workforce is--given our mission--a matter of national security. It is not simply an effort to ensure minority hiring. We need analysts from all walks of life who, based on their upbringing, their cultural heritage, and their experiences, view the world from different and unique vantage points. A workforce that reflects that diversity, enhanced by our differences, will present an even better, richer analytic product to our senior national security policymakers, products that have been challenged throughout their preparation by individuals looking at an issue from different perspectives.

A country like ours is really blessed to have citizens who contribute that mix of cultures and perspectives, and it is incumbent upon the senior managers in the directorate to ensure that we bring that richness into our organization.

TBC: What is the CIA doing to recruit a more diverse workforce?

JM: We have established outreach programs with several colleges and universities across the nation with high minority populations. These programs have allowed us to take our message directly to the student populations we want to attract and hire; to engage in candid conversation to dispel myths and untruths about the agency; and to educate students about our mission, the role of intelligence analysis, the intelligence analyst, and the kinds of academic backgrounds we find the most useful. We meet with students, professors, and program directors on their campuses, as well as invite them to visit us here at CIA headquarters.

Our university outreach programs include Georgia Tech, where we are a Platinum Corporate partner, the Atlanta University Center, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and the Electrical Engineering Department at Morgan State University.

This outreach approach is working. We are having good, open dialogue with minority students about who we are (not who Hollywood and the media have painted us to be), what we really do, and how they can be a part of this exciting mission. And they are hearing us and responding positively.

TBC: Do you offer internship opportunities for college students?

JM: Yes. We have a very robust internship program for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These are paid internships that students can apply for as early as their sophomore year. Interns in the DI are matched with a mentor to work on real, substantive intelligence issues. We are not just offering these students summer employment, but potentially a career. Therefore, we want them to truly understand the business of analysis and be able to make an informed decision about a career here.

TBC: What are the entry-level opportunities available in the DI?

JM: After completing a mandatory four-month tradecraft development/training program, an entry level DI analyst would begin mastering their subject account, writing up their analysis for the President; and briefing a senior member of the NSC. They could also find themselves traveling to a foreign country to brief the Ambassador at the US Embassy; or attending academic conferences sponsored by US universities.

TBC: Over the next 20 years what are some of the challenges you think will be at the forefront of the DI's agenda?

JM: There is a lot of talk at the moment about reforming the Intelligence Community, and we are engaged in that debate. We are open to good and smart reforms. One thing I can say categorically is that intelligence matters and will continue to be an important part of our nation's security. People who are just joining the CIA will have tremendous opportunities to shape that future.

As intelligence analysts we know better than most that any prediction we attempt to make about what the world will look like 20 years from now will be flawed--international relations and people are just too complex to allow for linear projections. Just imagine how someone would have answered that question 20 years ago: they might have talked about the continuing threat of the Soviet Union, but they wouldn't have mentioned an organization called Al Qaeda. And they might have been hard-pressed to imagine not only that apartheid in South Africa had disappeared but also that by then the country would be celebrating ten years of Black majority rule.

That said, some big trends are likely to still be at play 20 years from now. Among these are the emergence of countries such as China and India as world powers, the growing impact of technology, and continued political instability around the world fueled by economic and social conditions, and incompetent or corrupt governments. These conditions in turn will create the potential, in a worst-case scenario, for terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

As analysts, we must always be flexible and agile enough to be able to handle the new issues. We can be certain that at least one area of study that we don't currently think is important today will be very important 20 years from now. It is because we know the world will continue to change that we must stay in touch with future leaders and encourage them to consider a career with our Agency.

Source: Black Collegian






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