Efforts to build more diverse CIA have stalled, report finds

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2015 1:30 PM

By Warren Strobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA has consistently failed to promote minorities into its leadership ranks and progress in building diversity at the top of the spy agency has largely stalled in the last decade, according to a CIA-commissioned report released on Tuesday.

"Agency leaders, managers and supervisors do not prioritize diversity in leadership," the report said.

"This fact is evident at the highest levels of the CIA, wherein the most senior positions - with few notable exceptions - are consistently occupied by white male career officers," it said.

Among the report's most striking findings is that since 2008, the percentage of minorities hired by the CIA has declined to below what is needed to sustain current minority representation in the agency's workforce.

It also found that a 1984-2004 increase in African-American officers at the agency's top rung, known as the Senior Intelligence Service, has been reversed in the last 10 years.

CIA Director John Brennan, who ordered the study in December 2013, said he was committed to improving hiring, promotion and training of a diverse workforce. Brennan described that as vital to the spy agency's mission of understanding and predicting events in an increasingly complex world.

An insufficiently diverse workforce "has lead to less than comprehensive appreciation of the world as we know it," the CIA chief said. Other perspectives are needed, he said, "so we do not fall prey to group-think."

Since its 1947 founding, the CIA has often been seen as a bastion of white males - often educated at Ivy League universities.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the agency undertook to change that, increasing recruitment of ethnic minorities whose language skills and world views would help it better understand - and spy on targets in - the Islamic world.

Brennan acknowledged those efforts were "only partially successful."

He said he was committed to taking steps to ensure the latest report is not "yet one more study" whose recommendations are not implemented.

In a statement accompanying the report, Brennan said he would make creating "a diverse and inclusive environment" a performance objective for Senior Intelligence Service officers, and require that his leadership team attend diversity training.

The study, overseen by prominent lawyer and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, recommended Brennan "promptly and aggressively" promote minority intelligence officers "to positions that will send an unmistakable message of change."

Racial and ethnic minorities make up almost 24 percent of the CIA workforce, but just 10.8 percent of the Senior Intelligence Service, the report found.

(Reporting by Warren Strobel; Editing by Dan Grebler)