Spies demanding to work from home and bring cell phones to the office

  • Intelligence services have struggled to recruit since the COVID-19 pandemic, a spy chief has said.
  • The head of Germany’s BND said it “cannot deliver” the conditions expected in other industries.
  • This reflects a major shift in generational expectations in the workplace since the start of the pandemic.

The head of Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), its foreign intelligence service, detailed the difficulties in recruiting new employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bruno Kahl, the president of the BND, said in a recent interview that some pre-existing problems have continued to plague the service, but new problems have also crept in over the past three years.

“Before Corona, we had 10,000 applicants each year. We could choose the best, but that was still not enough,” he said, adding that “there was a deficit and some professions received too little news recruits – STEM jobs, cyber experts and hackers, and Arabic language interpreters.”

But Kahl said his department, which employs about 6,500 people, was now also grappling with new recruiting constraints, including the departure of older colleagues, demographics and changing workplace attitudes.

The flurry of new issues facing the service include worker demands for things like remote working privileges and the ability to bring their cellphones to the office, he said, apparently reflecting generational changes in workplace expectations.

“We can’t offer some things that are taken for granted today,” Kahl said.

“Remote work is hardly possible here because we have to guarantee security. Not being able to take mobile phones to the workplace is also not something that can be expected of today’s young people. “, he added.

According to the CIA’s Ask Molly article, “the public voice of the CIA since 2002,” future U.S. agents will also be disappointed to learn that the service rarely allows remote work.

The website states that staff “primarily work in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to protect our information, sources and methods from prying eyes or those who might want to do harm,” meaning that opportunities working remotely are rare.


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