CIA Director John Brennan made a rare public appearance Monday to try to address the agency’s “woeful” record of hiring and promoting Hispanics.
Accompanied by the agency’s highest ranking Latina, Brennan traveled to New York for the annual convention of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), to meet with potential applicants at a job fair and deliver remarks to the organization’s leadership at lunch.
Brennan has long lamented the CIA's inability to attract Latinos, and told reporters Monday he wanted them to look at the agency “not just as a future employer, but as a place where they can thrive as professionals.”
"I believe strongly in this,” he said, “not just because I'm CEO of the CIA and because I believe the agency needs to be able to optimize diversity within the agency to help us do our job, but because I am the son of an immigrant and come from a blue collar background.”
The trip was an outgrowth of the Director’s Diversity in Leadership Study, a recent analysis of the agency that found that while the presence of minorities in the CIA workforce is broadly representative of the nation’s population, there is a lack of diversity in the agency’s leadership -- and a troubling decline in the recruiting of the best and brightest in minority populations.
At the study’s rollout in June, Brennan was asked to identify a racial or ethnic group that had been particularly shortchanged. He cited Latinos, noting that the study showed that after decades of growth the percentage of Latinos in the Senior Intelligence Service – the agency’s upper rank -- had basically leveled off at around 2.5 percent over the past five years.
On Monday, Brennan said increasing the number of Latinos in the upper echelons of the agency " is something I hold myself accountable for." But he emphasized that there will be no short-changing of security issues as the CIA promotes diversity, though he said the agency is looking at ways of expediting security clearances for applicants, which can take months or even years.
Brennan appeared at ALPFA with CIA Deputy Executive Director Carmen Middleton, the agency's fourth highest ranking official and highest ranking Latina.
Middleton said that a shortage of Hispanics is a problem across the federal workforce. “The federal government is woefully lacking in representation of Hispanics. … So much of the reason why we don’t have strong Hispanic representation at the CIA is because they just don’t know it’s a possibility.”
Middleton said that in addition to attending conventions like ALPFA, the agency will be visiting what she called "historically Spanish Schools" -- also known as Hispanic Serving Institutions -- in hopes of recruiting Latinos, just as it visits Historically Black Colleges seeking African-American applicants. Echoing Brennan, she said the agency is still trying to get "under the data" to learn why recruiting and retaining Latinos has lagged.
Brennan also took the opportunity to talk about the agency's record of LGBT hiring and promotion.
“As someone who came in at a time when individuals were prevented from joining the agency for sexual preference, we, I think, have been leading in some respects of the last two decades,” Brennan said, calling the CIA’s more recent record "very, very good."