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'The CIA Is Not Committed to Diversity,' Says the CIA's Own Diversity Study

A 54-page study released Tuesday found that in several critical respects, senior leadership at the agency is less diverse than it was 20 years ago.
Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA

There are too many white people working for the CIA, according to the results of a CIA-commissioned study released Tuesday — and the lack of racial diversity has contributed to past intelligence failures.

"Despite the findings of numerous prior [CIA and congressional] studies… the record clearly suggests that the senior leadership of the Agency is not committed to diversity," the CIA's 54-page Diversity in Leadership study [pdf below] says. "The fact is that there has been little progress over the past several decades in diversifying the leadership cadre and pipeline, and in sustaining the hiring of diverse officers.


"The Agency does not hold its officers accountable for creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace."

Former Clinton White House counsel Vernon Jordan led the CIA study, which found racial and ethnic minorities at the agency make up "23.9 percent of the entire CIA workforce, but account for only 10.8 percent" of senior CIA executives.

"A lack of diversity of thought and experience was identified by congressional committees and independent commissions as contributing to past intelligence failures," the study says. That diversity is mission critical is no longer a debatable proposition — if it ever was…. Just as private industry is responding to affect their bottom line, we must respond appropriately to drive mission success."

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In a foreword to the report, Jordan said he and his colleagues met with more than 200 current and former CIA employees. Asian and Middle Eastern CIA staff said they felt they were not fully trusted by their colleagues.

Still, while all CIA employees said they were committed to diversity, "the empirical evidence that we examined clearly suggests that over the past 20 years — in several critical areas — the senior leadership of the CIA has become less diverse," Jordan wrote in a foreword to the study.

"For example, in the 10-year period from 2004 through 2014, the number of African American [senior intelligence] officers has declined in both actual numbers and as a percentage of the [Senior Intelligence Service]," Jordan said. "Moreover, while representation of Hispanic officers in the CIA has grown over the past 20 years, the net percentage remains far below that of the civilian work force."


The study says CIA Director John Brennan "must act promptly and aggressively" to promote senior intelligence officers to positions of leadership.

"A series of conspicuous appointments at the highest levels of the CIA will do a great deal to break down the barriers to true diversity that have existed for decades," the study says. "This step, more than any other, will emphasize in dramatic ways that the Agency has entered a new era and is committed to a leadership structure that truly 'looks like America.'"

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Brennan, who commissioned the study last January, said in a statement that he will take immediate action, particularly at the senior level.

"Within the next year, every officer on my senior leadership team will attend diversity and inclusion training," Brennan said in a statement in response to the study's findings. Additionally, "By 1 October, a new performance objective for Senior Intelligence Service officers will require that they be evaluated on their actions to create, maintain, and sustain a diverse and inclusive environment."

Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold