Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has deepened the commitment of the United States Government to draw upon the talents and skills of all parts of our society. 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 country’s largest employer to lead by example and to reflect the population that we serve. 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.
The imperative to promote diversity and inclusion is also critical for our national security workforce. In a complex and interconnected world, the nature of our national security challenges and opportunities is more global than ever. As a society that can trace its roots to every region around the world, the American people are our greatest asset when it comes to the United States’ ability to build bridges to communities at home and abroad, address foreign threats and aggression, and lead coalitions to promote global peace and prosperity. Promoting diversity and inclusion ensures that national security departments and agencies can recruit their employees from the broadest possible pool of talent and bring a wide range of perspectives, skills, and backgrounds to bear to tackle our toughest problems.
Today, the President is issuing a new Presidential Memorandum that provides guidance on the implementation of policies to promote diversity and inclusion in the national security workforce. 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 this data does not necessarily indicate the existence of barriers to equal employment opportunity, the Presidential Memorandum outlines a number of actions that will allow departments and agencies to better leverage the diversity and inclusion of the federal workforce, consistent with the existing merit system and applicable law, including:
- Collection, analysis, and dissemination of workforce data: Data is an essential tool to help departments and agencies identify workforce talent gaps, assess the efficiency and effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion efforts, and promote transparency and accountability. The memorandum provides guidance for departments and agencies to make key workforce data available to the general public, provide an annual report to their leadership and workforce on the status of diversity and inclusion efforts, expand the use of applicant flow data to assess the fairness and inclusiveness of their recruitment efforts, and identify any additional demographic categories they recommend for voluntary data collection.
- Provision of professional development opportunities and tools consistent with merit system principles: Providing access to professional development opportunities consistent with merit system principles is a key element to retaining and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce. The memorandum directs departments and agencies to engage their workforce through regular interviews to understand their views on workplace policies and why they choose to stay or leave, prioritize the expansion of professional development opportunities including programs specifically designed to develop the next generation of career senior executives, and implement a review process for decisions related to certain assignment or geographic restrictions.
- Strengthening of leadership engagement and accountability: The memorandum recognizes the critical role that senior leadership and supervisors play in fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce and cultivating talent consistent with merit system principles. It encourages departments and agencies to reward and recognize efforts by senior leaders and supervisors to participate in mentorship, sponsorship, and recruitment; to disseminate voluntary demographic data for external committee and boards that advise the leadership of an agency; and to expand the provision of training on implicit or unconscious bias, inclusion, and flexible work policies.
The guidance in this Presidential Memorandum furthers the initiative that President Obama announced in 2011 in Executive Order 13583, “Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce,” for departments and agencies to develop and implement a more comprehensive, integrated, and strategic focus on diversity and inclusion. It also complements the remarkable progress that the national security workforce has made over the past several years in recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion to the success of their mission, including but not limited to:
- The Department of Defense’s decisions to eliminate all remaining institutional barriers to service by opening all military occupations to women and transgender individuals;
- The Central Intelligence Agency’s commissioning and public release of two studies on women and diversity in their leadership and its active implementation of the studies’ recommendations;
- The Office of the Director of National Intelligence release of its annual Intelligence Community demographics report, the first time it has ever been publicly released; and
- The Department of Justice announced that all law enforcement agents and prosecutors will receive training to recognize and address implicit bias.
The Presidential Memorandum also aligns with a number of congressional efforts to promote the diversity of the national security workforce. Over the past several decades, Congress has passed legislation mandating reforms to ensure that institutions including the Foreign Service, Intelligence Community, and U.S. military provide equal employment opportunity to all those who have the desire and qualifications to serve their country. Under this Administration, the Congress and President Obama have collaborated on important legislation on this issue, most notably on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.