Last December, CIA Director John O. Brennan made a commitment to promote the hiring of minorities in the CIA after years of failure on the part of previous directors to diversify the CIA. Brennan stated that he believed the CIA’s largely white workforce was undercutting the agency’s mission to protect the people of the U.S. with high quality intelligence gathering. Now, he is living up to his promise.
He commissioned a report this year that delivered a scathing critique of the Central Intelligence Agency’s efforts to diversify its staff. In the wake of that report, Brennan reached out to historically black colleges to help diversify the CIA and provide opportunity for black college students.
He held a press conference Friday alongside Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, announcing a partnership between the two organizations. The CIA has agreed to use the 47 colleges supported by the Thurgood Marshall Fund as a pipeline for hires into the CIA’s collections, analysis, covert action, and counterintelligence divisions.
Taylor praised Brennan’s efforts, calling the director’s actions courageous and lauding the action steps taken as an important part of diversifying the CIA. However, creating a new pipeline is just the beginning. The greater issue lies in the senior management of the CIA.
With few exceptions, the higher into the CIA one looks, the more likely they are to find white male leaders. Recruitment centers have reportedly engaged in diversity based recruiting strategies over the years, but these have been ineffective. Diversifying leadership and developing new recruitment strategies will be necessary for the CIA to truly take advantage of their new pipeline.
Still, Brennan’s follow through on the issue of diversity in the CIA is the largest action taken by any director to diversify the agency in the CIA’s history. His continued commitment to the process will hopefully help to guide the CIA towards better hiring practices in the future.