June 6, 2013
In a ceremony yesterday at CIA Headquarters, Director John O. Brennan recognized Agency officers who have leveraged their exceptional foreign language skills to advance the CIA’s mission. Director Brennan bestowed the Foreign Language Excellence Award upon an officer whose foreign language expertise helped produce dozens of insightful reports on a priority issue, many of which were briefed to our nation’s most senior policymakers. The Director also honored the runner-up, an officer whose foreign language skills enabled the collection of critical intelligence on a high interest national security challenge.
“Foreign language expertise is absolutely critical to the success of our mission,” Director Brennan told the audience of CIA officers. “It helps us carry out some of our most fundamental responsibilities.”
The 10 nominees for the Award collectively were proficient in 10 different languages, five of which the CIA considers mission critical: Arabic, Persian, Dari, Korean, and Chinese.
CIA has presented the Foreign Language Excellence Award annually since 2007 and has made great strides to strengthen the Agency’s foreign language capabilities. The nominees for this year’s Award reflect the Agency’s broader workforce; the number of language-capable CIA officers has grown by nearly 30 percent in the last five years, with nearly 60 percent of this increase occurring in mission critical languages.
Director Brennan, who leveraged his own Arabic language skills during his CIA career, affirmed his commitment to building the Agency workforce’s foreign language capabilities. He noted that “learning a foreign language is not easy,” but, “for those of us in the intelligence profession, the payoff is more than worth it.”