A Presidential Memorandum providing guidance to promote diversity and inclusion in the national security workforce was issued this week by President Obama.
More than three million people makeup the workforce that is responsible for protecting the country and advancing our interests abroad, through diplomacy, development, defense, intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Office of Intelligence Community Equal Employment’s Annual Demographic Report: Hiring and Retention of Minorities, Women and Persons with Disabilities in the United States Intelligence Community for Fiscal Year 2015 — the first unclassified version of the annual Congressional report — found that while the percentage of minorities in the Intelligence Community (IC) increased from nearly 21 percent in FY 2011 to approximately 25 percent in FY 2015, the minority makeup of its workforce falls short in comparison to the rest of the federal workforce (35 percent) and the nation’s total population (37 percent). Additionally, only 12 percent of the Intelligence Community senior-level work force are minorities.
However the annual ODNI review noted upfront that “statistical significance …results are expressed as percentages of the total IC workforce, or of some subset of the workforce. When making observations of a population, there is always the possibility that an observed effect may have occurred due to a collection error.”
“Percentages of small populations may also be misleading,” ODNI added, noting, “percentages can fluctuate significantly if there is a one- or two-person change, due to the small population counts. For example, data points relating to participation in senior service schools could appear to be unusually high, but it is important to understand that such calculations are based on small numbers relative to the IC workforce asa whole.”
In his promoting diversity and inclusion in the national security workforce, Obama tended to agree the ODNI, saying, “The data collected by [the IC agencies] do not capture the full range of diversity in the national security workforce.”
“But, Obama continued, “where data allow for broad comparison, they indicate that agencies in this workforce are less diverse on average than the rest of the federal government. For example, as of 2015, only the Department of State and USAID Civil Services were more diverse in terms of gender, race and ethnicity than the federal workforce as a whole. When comparing the agencies’ workforces to their leadership personnel (Senior Executive Service (SES) or its equivalent), all agencies’ leadership staffs were less diverse than their respective workforces in terms of gender, and all but DOD enlisted personnel and USAID Civil Service had less diverse leadership in terms of race and ethnicity. While these data do not necessarily indicate the existence of barriers to equal employment opportunity, we can do more to promote diversity in the national security workforce, consistent with merit system principles and applicable law.”
“Our greatest asset in protecting the homeland and advancing our interests abroad is the talent and diversity of our national security workforce,” Obama said, noting that, “Under my administration, we have made important progress toward harnessing the extraordinary range of backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, skills and experiences of the US population toward keeping our country safe and strong.”
“As the United States becomes more diverse and the challenges we face more complex, we must continue to invest in policies to recruit, retain and develop the best and brightest from all segments of our population,” Obama said, noting that, “Research has shown that diverse groups are more effective at problem solving than homogeneous groups, and policies that promote diversity and inclusion will enhance our ability to draw from the broadest possible pool of talent, solve our toughest challenges, maximize employee engagement and innovation and lead by example by setting a high standard for providing access to opportunity to all segments of our society.”
Continuing, Obama stated in his memorandum that, “To be successful against increasingly complex global threats, the IC must employ and develop a dynamic, agile workforce that reflects diversity in its broadest context and includes all aspects that make individuals unique and America strong. This includes, but is not limited to, race, culture, heritage, gender, age, religion, language skills, differing abilities, sexual orientation and gender identity, ideas and perspectives.”
The ODNI’s FY 2015 annual report stated, “Diversity is necessary to build a solid foundation of key capabilities and capacity within the IC, and diversity is recognized as essential to advancing the core mission objectives set forth in the National Intelligence Strategy of the United States of America, 2014 (NIS). As stated in NIS Enterprise Objective 5: Our people, the IC is collaboratively moving forward to ‘build a more agile, diverse, inclusive and expert work force.’”
The ODNI’s 2015 review further stated that, “Five-year trends (FY 2011–2015) in hiring and attrition dynamics indicate a gradual increase in minority representation over time [and that data] illustrates the gradual increase in the minority workforce and reflects hiring and attrition trends; Unknown RNO [Race and National Origin] has been included in the [data] because this group may include minorities who choose not to disclose their race or ethnic origin. In FY 2015, overall IC minority representation in hiring increased from 23.6 percent (FY 2014) to 24.9 percent, largely due to a 1.4 percent increase in Hispanic hiring.”
Representation of women in the IC has remained steady, ODNI reported, but “hiring decreased from 42.6 percent to 38.2 percent in FY 2015. “Women are well represented through GS/GG-12, but taper off in the higher grades. If attrition can be reduced further to below the female workforce representation rate, there is a potential pool of women in the mid-grades who can increase the population of women in grades GS/GG-13 and above. In FY 2015, women earned 43.9 percent of promotions, which is a rate above their representation in the workforce (38.5 percent). The same is true of honorary awards recognizing outstanding service to the IC. Women received 46.8 percent of these awards, also at a rate above their representation in the workforce.”
Over a DHS, it’s “working to become a leader in the Intelligence Community’s efforts to increase diversity within our national security workforce. Specifically, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis has entered into a recruiting agreement with higher education institutions that serve minority populations, created the Cyber Student Initiative to offer learning opportunities for college students, and issued recruitment and outreach plans to fill minority staffing gaps,” said House Committee on Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-MS).
Thompson stated, ““While the trend in minority representation is moving in a positive direction, more work needs to be done. Attrition and promotion of minorities are lagging and, in some instances, decreasing. The promotion of diversity and inclusion of various cultures, perspectives, and skills within our national security workforce is directly tied to our ability to protect our nation’s interests at home and abroad.”
The ODNI ceded that, “Minority representation continues to slowly trend in a positive direction. However, there are several indications that increased focus is warranted.”