The OSS was comprised of ordinary citizens with extraordinary skills. Traditionally, talented journalists and others were able to play a role in the intelligence work of a nation. Why has that gone away? The security measures required to join the intelligence community (IC) are too stringent and have become metric based. Many are turned away who are otherwise solid candidates. The result is that people on the inside naturally feel more ‘cleared’ therefore, more special. Everyone wants to be unique and validated. But that culture begets an in-group mentality; maybe even one where it’s us versus them, being anyone else. Life is more complicated than that.
We’re willing to work with people abroad who are playing both sides. A relatively ordinary person with a guilty conscious might not walk out of the poly and get a low-level job in the IC. It’s not likely the original members of the OSS and the Intelligence Community would have passed today’s background checks and standards. They did, however, perform and get things done. Maybe things were more holistic then. Today, there’s a massive amount of people cycling through the system. If you go through LinkedIn profiles and search the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, you’ll find a ton of individuals.
Most businesses have taken on the task of becoming more lean and nimble to conduct operations. The Intelligence Community has the world’s premier tools. They’re also said to have the sharpest minds. But it’s a massive entity where good people do not necessarily make it through the onboarding. It’s not because they aren’t good enough either, they just don’t make it. There are so many people coming and going that the system can’t double check every person. They probably have recruiting trends and things they’re looking to fill for HR reasons.
It’s like the Army and Special Forces, at a certain point we needed more people to fill our 4th Battalions. The result is both good and bad. Good people got chances who might not have otherwise. But the wrong people fell through the cracks. You can’t win in this kind of system where we are in a constant need of bodies. But, you can’t uniformly violate the principle of mass producing special operations, to include intelligence officers, and maintain your golden brand indefinitely.
An unfortunate side effect of the prestige and strong brand of special operations and the intelligence community is that it attracts social climbers; (people who want to join a particular agency or unit to feel untouchable and superior to others, instead of a desire to do the job and do it well). I heard once that Special Forces had more negative incidents that required administrative action than Delta Force had in its entire existence. Special Forces is much larger than JSOC and, especially, Delta Force but the statistic, if true, is telling. There’s not enough pride in the unit. Partially SF culture has transformed as a result of Iraq and a state of perpetual war. Many are strung out, tired, and ultimately have disciplinary issues when they’re home.
We’ve enacted massive machines that ruled by doctrine and briefs without needed attention to the warfighter. Today, you have to live your life to fit the mold of the clearance and the culture of wherever you work. We aren’t looking for an eclectic group of people to do interesting and outside-of-the-box things. Instead, we’ve redrawn the box, called it outside of the box, and only take those who pass the screening. It’s hard to give advice to anyone who wants to join the force and has grand ambition. It’s the luck of the draw on what unit you may go to, or what team. It’s all a numbers game and that status quo ought to be broken.
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