CIA's project management program nears launch

BALTIMORE'The CIA is midway through a process to set up an in-house certification program for project managers to improve the success rate for its hundreds of overt and covert projects.

'Our public image involves spying, but we do projects,' said Michael O'Brochta, the CIA's senior project manager, at an international conference of project managers today. 'We have thousands of project managers in the CIA. I can't say how many. It's a big business in the CIA.'

By next spring, the agency's certification program is expected to be in place, he said.

Project managers handle a wide array of projects, from the development of data mining software to eavesdropping equipment, as well as working on leading-edge technologies and sciences, and even the basics'disguises for spies.

Until last month, O'Brochta was the only project manager at the CIA to have a Project Management Professional certification from the not-for-profit Project Management Institute, which is holding its North American conference in Baltimore this week.

PMPs must meet stiff educational and on-the-job requirements and pass a rigorous examination.

Efforts for a four-level, in-house certificate come as the CIA faces fresh intelligence-gathering challenges following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and is looking to recruit a new generation of workers.

'There's a general trend in government, and a specific effort at CIA, to establish project management standards,' he said.

O'Brochta said the CIA program is expected to enroll about 500 workers each year, and it will take most three to five years to complete the program.

The CIA also has 'taken the view that a successful project manager must know some systems engineering,' he said.

The agency won't require that its project managers have the PMP credential and will use private-sector vendors for some of the training.

'It's nice to know that what we've been doing for 10 to 15 years is being seen by the industry as best practices,' O'Brochta said.

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