WASHINGTON, May 30 (UPI) -- CIA Director Leon Panetta plans to double the number of officers at the U.S. spy agency with foreign language skills.
In a letter to employees Friday, Panetta said he will ask Congress to provide money for a five-year program, The Washington Times reported.
"Language skills are the keys to accessing foreign societies, understanding their governments and decoding their secrets," Panetta said. "This important initiative will require significant new funding. In the coming weeks and months, I will reach out across the intelligence community, to the Office of Management and Budget, and most importantly, to our partners in Congress to find the necessary resources."
Panetta said newly hired employees will be able to begin language study while waiting for security clearances, a change from current policy. He also plans to expand night classes, on-line language study and study outside the United States for critical languages.
The languages most critical in the near future include Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Pashto, the language of many Afghans, and Urdu, the major language in Pakistan.