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CIA Suffers Significant Decline in Minority Recruits

A new study commissioned by the intelligence agency shows a decline in recruitment that Director John Brennan called "significant."

The CIA admitted Tuesday that while the presence of racial and ethnic minorities in its 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.

The conclusions were released in a 48-page report entitled “Director’s Diversity in Leadership Study: Overcoming Barriers to Advancement.”

“The study found cultural, management, and organizational issues that contribute to a lack of diversity in the agency’s leadership,” said CIA Director John Brennan, who met with reporters at agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “The CIA simply must do more to develop the diverse and inclusive leadership environment that our values require and that our mission demands.”

In comments to reporters, Brennan said the recruiting decline was “significant” and believed the improving economy “over the past four or five years” has led to potential recruits “being recruited by the private sector. He said that to counter that trend there will have to be some new initiatives.

The report, commissioned by Brennan last year, was written by an outside panel, led by Vernon Jordan, a member of the CIA’s External Advisory Board and a confidant of Democratic presidents. It also included, among others, Adm. Michael Mullen, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, and agency veterans.

While the study found that 23.9 percent of the agency’s workforce was composed of racial and ethnic minorities, less than half that number -- 10.8 percent -- of the Senior Intelligence Staff are minorities. Moreover, those minorities make up only 15.2 percent of the next highest level of government leadership, the GS-15 rating. Employees’ salaries and benefits are based on those ratings.

Asked to identify a racial or ethnic group that was particularly underrepresented, Brennan cited Hispanics, adding that it is a problem across the entire federal workforce and one that needs to be addressed as the population of the U.S. continues to shift.

Jordan wrote in an executive summary that there are many aspects to the lack of diversity, including “a failure in leadership in making the engagement and development of every officer an equal priority,” a “general lack of accountability,” and most perhaps most troubling for Brennan, “a deficient recruiting recruiting process.”

Specifically, on recruiting, the report found that “since 2008, the percentage of minorities hired has declined to levels lower than what is necessary to sustain the level of minority representation in the current workforce. Building and sustaining a diverse leadership pipeline will not be possible without improved results.” The report added that the agency’s recruiting strategies were largely “ineffective.”

The report listed seven recommendations and added the need for the “CIA’s executive leadership must demonstrate a commitment to correcting the deficiencies.”