Obama Memo: Security Agencies Need More ‘Diversity’

US President Barack Obama speaks to US troops at Fort Lee, Virginia, September 28, 2016. The United States will send about 600 extra troops to Iraq to train local forces for an offensive on the Islamic State group stronghold of Mosul, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. / AFP / SAUL …
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama is urging U.S. security agencies to diversify their federal workforce by hiring more minorities while “cultivating talent consistent with merit system principles,” according to a presidential memo.

“Our greatest asset in protecting the homeland and advancing our interests abroad is the talent and diversity of our national security workforce,” said Obama in a Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce released Wednesday.

“As the United States becomes more diverse and the challenges we face more complex, we must continue to invest in policies to recruit, retain and develop the best and brightest from all segments of our population,” he added.

The White House also released a fact sheet associated with the presidential memo that notes that the Obama administration has determined that diversity includes individuals with various ethnic, religious or sexual backgrounds.

“Diversity has always been one of the nation’s greatest strengths, and it is no different for the federal workforce, which has a responsibility as the nation’s largest employer to lead by example and to reflect the population that we serve,” it says.

“Inclusion has been key to ensuring that the investments we make to develop our workforce result in a more effective and skilled government for the American people,” it adds.

Although Obama noted in the fact sheet that one of America’s greatest assets is the talent and diversity found across the nation, he acknowledged that the federal workforce that deals with national security and foreign policy has not been taking advantage of that resource.

The sheet noted:

Currently, more than three million military and civilian personnel in the U.S. Government are engaged in protecting the country and advancing our interests abroad, through diplomacy, development, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security. In broad comparison with the wider Federal Government, the federal workforce dedicated to our national security and foreign policy is – on average – less diverse, including at the highest levels.

While the administration said the lack of diversity does not necessarily indicate the existence of barriers to equal employment opportunities, the memo highlights actions that will facilitate the inclusion of a more diverse federal workforce.

In a blog post that accompanied Obama’s memorandum, national security adviser Susan Rice, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith highlighted the need for the U.S. national security workforce to draw from the strength of America’s diversity.

“Nearly 40 percent of the approximately 320 million people in the United States are minorities, and an increasing number of them are earning college and graduate degrees,” blogged Rice. “As America becomes more diverse, so do our best people. Yet, minorities make up less than 20 percent of our senior diplomats and 15 percent of senior military officers and senior intelligence officials.”

While President Obama, the nation’s first black president, attempted to make diversity a trademark of his tenure, black Americans and Hispanics experienced high unemployment rates during his presidency.