GAO tracks diversity in the intelligence community

Although steps have been taken to address workforce diversity, a recent report underscored gaps in strategic planning among intelligence community elements.

A new Government Accountability Office review of the intelligence community's progress in cultivating a diverse workforce found that although the proportions of women, racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities have increased from fiscal year 2011 to 2019, these percentages still remain "well below" benchmarks in the federal workforce and civilian labor force.

In the highest ranks, representation actually decreased in FY 2019, according to the report.

The GAO report compared 2019 intelligence community workforce data to numbers in a 2017 OPM report. The proportion of women in the intelligence community was about seven percentage points lower than that of the civilian labor force, and four lower than the federal workforce.

Racial and ethnic minorities compose about 26% of the intelligence community workforce, as compared to around 37% for both the federal workforce and the civilian workforce. The proportion of persons with disabilities in the intelligence community workforce saw an increase of 6.3% from 2011 to 2019.

However, an important distinction between the IC workforce and the labor groups in the federal workforce and the civilian labor force are the "unique hiring authorities and challenges the intelligence community faces in employing and retaining staff," such as security clearance requirements, according to the report.

The GAO found that intelligence community elements are taking steps to address workforce diversity through measures like recruitment, succession planning and accountability. However, only three of 17 intelligence community elements have current, complete strategic plans, according to the report, which also noted gaps in workforce diversity performance measurement and required barrier assessments among IC elements.

The GAO report also found that the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Office (EEOD) in ODNI has taken steps to increase diversity, but it hasn't "consistently taken steps to reinforce accountability for IC elements to achieve diversity goals." The report included recommendations for the Director of National Intelligence to update guidance on strategic planning and take steps to increase IC accountability on the issue.

ODNI concurred with the report but noted that ODNI's EEOD does not "direct" and isn't responsible for individual component diversity programs.

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site. 

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