CIA Resents Bad Morale Suggestion

Insiders say spirits are up, and they are fighting back with some facts.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers.

If part of the reason President-elect Barack Obama wants an outsider to head the CIA is because of bad morale, then somebody might need to check with Langley insiders. They say spirits are up. And now, they are trying to fight back with some facts. "We've read a lot over the past few days about the status of morale at CIA. A lot of this appears to be coming from has-beens, wannabes, or never-weres," spokesman Mark Mansfield tells us. "Unnamed sources who suggest morale is low don't have any idea what's going on now. And those of us who work here are at a loss, wondering what basis they have for making such comments."

Insiders say morale can be measured—in part by the CIA's attrition rate. When Mike Hayden took over as director in 2006, the attrition rate was nearly 6 percent. In two years, it was down to 4.1 percent, the agency's lowest rate on record. The agency's resignation rate is currently 1.8 percent, another historic low. And the CIA is on track to meet a presidential hiring directive to double the number of positions in certain job categories, such as clandestine officers.

While it now appears that Hayden will be replaced by embattled Obama pick Leon Panetta or somebody else, many think the poor morale hit is unfair. Says one senior official, "That's not the sense Mike [Hayden] gets when he eats lunch with employees in the cafeteria."

As for Hayden, the mood around him seems to have shifted to a resignation that his days as chief are numbered. "Whenever or whatever happens, Mike Hayden will be able to leave the CIA with his head held high. He is respected and admired over there because he has stood up for CIA employees rather than point fingers or throw anyone under a bus . . . including any of his predecessors," said one senior intelligence official.