The federal government’s intelligence community has used the Centers for Academic Excellence program since 2005 to ensure that a pool of applicants are trained in vital skills, which should in theory increase the diversity of employees at IC agencies, such as the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency.
The program provides grants to accredited, four-year universities to support the development of intelligence-related curricula and courses.
But according to a Government Accountability Office report issued Aug. 1, the DIA, which manages the program’s operations, hasn’t adequately kept track of whether the grants invested have yielded the desired results of increasing IC diversity.
“Specifically, while DIA has developed some short-term goals and plans for the program, DIA has not established results-oriented program goals or an overall strategy that details the agency resources and processes required to achieve the program's mission,” the report said.
“Similarly, DIA collected some data for the program and required colleges to provide reports on significant program accomplishments, but these data are not complete or reliable and have not been used to comprehensively evaluate the program's success.”
The IC is projected to ultimately spend $69 million on the program from its inception in 2005 into 2021. So far, 29 colleges have received 46 grants during that time.
But according to GAO, DIA has not ensured that other intelligence agencies are sufficiently participating in the program, despite the continued awarding of grants to universities.
“The IC CAE program is a collaborative effort that allows IC elements to participate in college events, such as IC CAE recruitment events. However, not all IC elements participate in the program,” the report said.
“As IC CAE program manager, DIA has engaged with IC elements in a variety of ways, but this engagement has not resulted in consistent participation among the IC elements. Moreover, program documentation has not clearly defined IC elements’ roles and responsibilities for participation.”
Oversight of the program has also remained transitory, as the centers were originally under the oversight of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until 2011, when they were placed under DIA’s oversight. ODNI officials told GAO that they intend to transition the program back to their own office in fiscal year 2020.
GAO recommended that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence establish results-oriented goals for the program, develop strategies to achieve those goals, identify and evaluate external factors that could impact the program’s ability to achieve those goals, document performance measures for the program, develop a plan for periodically evaluating the program’s performance, assess why some intelligence agencies are not participating in the program and address those reasons, and define the intelligence agencies’ roles and responsibilities for participating in the program.
ODNI agreed with the recommendations, but did not outline the steps it would take to implement them.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.