In the two years since George Floyd’s accidental fentanyl overdose death, multiple intelligence agencies and other national security apparatuses have focused on hiring more minorities, claiming that diversity is a top national security issue.
According to the Associated Press, multiple employees of various intelligence agencies used the accidental death of George Floyd, which sparked violent race riots and acts of domestic terrorism all across the country, as an excuse to complain about alleged discrimination in the workplace. Staff calls were held at several agencies in the summer of 2020, including the National Security Agency (NSA), where General Paul Nakasone listened as employees listed their grievances with alleged racism, according to one anonymous source who claims to have been on the call. The individual claimed, without any evidence, that their role and the roles of other non-White employees were undermined or underappreciated by upper management.
The NSA issued a statement that, while not acknowledging reports of the alleged staff call, said that it nevertheless will “regularly examine the outcomes of our personnel systems to assess their fairness.”
“Beyond the mission imperative,” the statement continued, “NSA cultivates diversity and promotes inclusion because we care about our people and know it is the right way to proceed.”
Despite many agencies pushing new diversity initiatives and training, some claim that they have not gone far enough. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines has appointed several advisers to serve in diversity-focused roles, aimed at hiring more minorities as well as studying alleged discrimination in the intelligence community. Among other initiatives, this group is investigating such questions as whether or not the process of obtaining a security clearance is easier for White people than for non-White people.
“It’s going to be incremental,” said Stephanie La Rue, appointed to lead the intelligence community’s “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) initiatives. “We’re not going to see immediate change overnight. It’s going to take us a while to get to where we need to go.”
She also denied accusations that the emphasis on hiring people based on their skin color, gender, or other arbitrary factors would see the most qualified applicants rejected in favor of affirmative action.
“The narrative that we have to sacrifice excellence for diversity,” she said, “or that we are somehow compromising national security to achieve our diversity goals, is ridiculous.”
But Lenora Gant, a former senior human capital officer for the CIA and the DNI, who now works for Howard University, claimed that during her time with the agencies, the intelligence community would deliberately hinder the process of hiring for women, minorities, and the disabled. She demanded that the agencies release their previously-classified data on the hiring process.
“The bottom line is the decision making leadership levels are void of credible minority participation,” said Gant.
Nevertheless, officials with the various agencies have stood by their diversity efforts. Tammy Thorp, a spokeswoman for the CIA, released a statement saying that “we are proud of the Agency’s progress in ensuring our hiring, assignment, and promotion processes do not create barriers to advancement.”