Prospective international spies are demanding to work from home and bring their cell phones to the office, spy chief says

  • Intelligence services are struggling to recruit since the COVID-19 pandemic, a spy chief has said.

  • The head of Germany's BND said it "cannot offer" conditions that are expected in other industries.

  • It reflects a major shift in generational workplace expectations since the onset of the pandemic.

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

Bruno Kahl, the president of the BND, said in a recent interview that certain pre-existing problems had continued to plague the service, but new issues had now also crept in over the last three years.

"Before Corona, we had 10,000 applicants every year. We could choose the best, but that still wasn't enough," he said, adding that "there was a deficit, and particular professions received too few new recruits — STEM jobs, cyber experts and hackers, and Arabic language interpreters."

But Kahl said that his service, which employs around 6,500 people, was now also battling new strains on recruitment, including the departure of older colleagues, demographics, and changing attitudes to work.

The wave of new problems facing the service include workers' demands for things like remote working privileges and the ability to bring their cell phones to the office, he said, seemingly reflecting generational shifts in workplace expectations.

"We cannot offer certain things that are taken for granted today," Kahl said.

"Remote work is barely possible here as we need to guarantee security. Not being able to take cell phones into the workplace is also not something you can expect from young people today," he added.

According to the CIA's Ask Molly feature, "the CIA's public voice since 2002," prospective US agents will also be disappointed to hear that the service rarely allows for remote work.

The website says that staff "primarily work in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to protect our information, sources, and methods from prying eyes or those who may want to harm," meaning opportunities for remote work are scarce.

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