- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

As the crimes they investigate change, FBI agents in the next 100 years will require far different skills from those of the agents and employees who carried the bureau through its first century.

The resumes of the FBI’s earliest agents were highlighted by careers in law, accounting and electrical engineering, with fluency in Italian, Russian or Spanish.

Today, the resumes landing at the top of the stack at the FBI recruiting office feature considerable international travel, fluency in Middle Eastern or Chinese languages and a background in military intelligence or computer technology.

“Since 9/11, the focus [of the FBI] has shifted to counterterrorism and the role we play in the intelligence community,” said John G. Raucci, assistant director of human relations at the FBI. “As we become a more equal partner in the intelligence community, we offer greater services. It’s not just the role of the agent on the street, but [also] foreign language skills, intelligence collection, intelligence analysis.”

As the toughest crimes facing the United States and the world have changed, so have the skills the FBI requires from its employees, Mr. Raucci said. Today’s - and tomorrow’s - crimes center on counterterrorism and the Internet.

The bureau’s intelligence component has increased significantly since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, especially as the FBI becomes involved in collecting data in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cyber-based offenses, such as “pump and dump” schemes - inflating the price of a stock through false statements and then selling it - and selling stolen goods on portals as such as eBay, also have increased.

The most wanted criminals for cyber-crimes are suspected of complex acts that require a technology background, including rerouting thousands of voice-over-Internet-protocol calls or hacking into competitors’ Web sites to block sales.

Building cases against such criminals requires skills that agents didn’t need just a few years ago.

Accountant, lawyer and electrical engineer were common occupations for FBI hires until recently. Accountants were needed to pore through company filings to find white-collar crimes. Electrical engineers had to create lamps that concealed microphones.

Today, fewer engineers are needed because the private sector produces much of the technology the FBI uses. The FBI’s laboratories are able to build on private-sector products to make them “bigger, faster and better,” according to Mr. Raucci.

Fluency in Italian, Russian and Spanish were sought in the 1970s as the FBI was investigating organized crime and Russian terrorists.

Today’s focus requires Middle Eastern or Chinese language skills for counterintelligence or spy investigations.

Because it’s looking for different skills, the FBI targets specific persons or schools, in particular schools with programs in technology, homeland security, international studies and foreign language, Mr. Raucci said.

Recruiting has become more competitive over the years, as the private sector looks for the same people the FBI wants. Government contractors and international organizations - which would be equally interested in well-educated, well-traveled intelligence analysts or techno-savvy people - are able to offer significant salaries, signing bonuses and other perks.

“Today we compete not only with the [Drug Enforcement Administration] and CIA for the best and the brightest; we’re competing with Northrop Grumman and all the private-sector people who have foreign holdings,” Mr. Raucci said.

FBI employees typically don’t stay with the bureau as long as they did previously, Mr. Raucci said. The baby-boomer generation may have considered themselves FBI “lifers,” but, like employees in many other industries, the generation of FBI employees just entering the bureau see their jobs as more temporary.

FBI executives retire at a younger age than they did previously, Mr. Raucci said, attributing that in part to decreases in benefits that basically cap their pensions at age 50.

Yet the FBI’s turnover rate has remained a very healthy 4 percent, and job postings quickly get “thousands” of responses, Mr. Raucci said.

The responses have become increasingly important.

“The FBI, they’re the front line. If they fail, we fail in the domestic war on terrorism,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Congress needs to support its work to integrate intelligence into the counterterrorism effort.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the committee will work with the FBI to “address current priorities and challenges like preventing terrorism, cracking down on computer crime, aggressively combating fraud and public corruption, and effectively applying modern forensics like DNA typing and other new technologies.”

“The bureau’s skilled and hardworking staff has helped it achieve [pre-eminent] status, adapting to new kinds of crime and to new threats to our security, and I applaud their dedicated service,” he said.

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