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TRAINING AT THE ACADEMY
Building an FBI Intelligence Network

05/24/06

FBI Academy graphic

For five weeks last fall, 80 new FBI recruits trained together, ate together, stayed in dorms, and rose with the sun in Quantico, Virginia, home to the FBI Academy, which has been minting special agents since 1972.

But these recruits weren’t practicing on the gun range or staking out Hogan’s Alley, a fake crime-addled town set on the FBI campus. Their training—as intelligence analysts, language analysts, and physical surveillance specialists—is focused on using and sharing analytical information to find and connect the dots in criminal and national security investigations.

Agents for years have reaped the benefits of training together; training lasts 18 weeks and the connections forged at the Academy endure long after new agents are assigned to field offices across the country or overseas. Taking a page from the agents’ playbook, the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence and Training and Development Division last year launched a new course at the Academy called the Cohort Program for those entering the FBI’s Intelligence Career Service.

The program introduces new hires to the FBI and prepares them for work in the field and at Headquarters. Members of the “cohort,” as they are called because of their shared career service and goals, spend five weeks at Quantico and then attend more specialized training for their specific job roles. The goal is to imbue new members of the FBI’s growing intelligence arm with the Bureau’s mission, while at the same time creating a network of Intelligence Career Service members familiar with each other and each other’s job roles.

“It’s extremely helpful to know so many people before actually entering the workplace,” an intelligence analyst who graduated from the program in October said earlier this year. “One of the best advantages was the social networks we were able to create, which have proved to help me already.”

Earlier intelligence courses were designed to train intelligence analysts already on board at the FBI. New analysts used to have to learn the ropes on the job. Now, with many new analysts—more than 650 hired between October 2004 and September 2005—an integral part of training is a focus on building esprit de corps and a network of relationships that will support Intelligence Career Service members as they begin their careers.

In addition to instruction in information gathering, analytical thinking, and analytical tools and applications, the regimen includes practice delivering briefings and writing intelligence reports.

Gary Bald, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s new National Security Branch, which includes the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence divisions and the Directorate of Intelligence, said the new program uses time-tested training methods to develop basic analytical capabilities.

“We are adapting the best practices and traditions of new agent training and the training of other intelligence agencies as we develop training for our new Intelligence Career Service members at the FBI,” he said.

Links: More on FBI Training | FBI Academy | Directorate of Intelligence