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Statement from Director John Brennan on Improving Leadership Diversity at CIA

CIA Director John Brennan Issues Statement on  Improving Leadership Diversity at CIA

June 30, 2015


In January 2014, I commissioned a comprehensive study, known as the Diversity in Leadership Study (DLS), to examine factors limiting diversity in senior leadership positions across our organization. I was deeply concerned that the senior levels of CIA did not reflect the diversity of the Agency workforce or of the Nation we serve, and that this problem had persisted despite repeated efforts by Agency leaders to address it. 

To lead the study, I turned to a group of outside experts led by Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., a member of our External Advisory Board and one of our Nation’s most respected voices on civil rights. In conducting its research, the group worked closely with a team of Agency officers representing all Directorates and levels of our organization, reviewed the scholarly literature, and gathered data from thousands of CIA officers via surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Today, we are pleased to release the group’s final report, which you can access here.

As you will see, the study group took a hard look at our Agency and reached an unequivocal conclusion:  CIA simply must do more to develop the diverse and inclusive leadership environment that our values require and that our mission demands. 

The study found cultural, management, and organizational issues that contribute to a lack of diversity in the Agency’s leadership. Several of these challenges echoed themes that we heard in the Director’s Advisory Group (DAG) on Women in Leadership and the 90-Day Study that established our Modernization Program. Specifically, the DLS concluded that the Agency does not sufficiently prioritize the development of its officers, hold itself accountable for maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, or consistently promote an inclusive culture.

I have discussed these conclusions with several former CIA Directors. Every one of them believes very strongly in the importance of diversity and inclusion and has sought to move our Agency forward on the issue. Each understands how difficult this challenge is and knows how crucial it is to reach our goal:  having both a workforce and leadership team that better resemble the Nation we help protect.

Achieving that outcome is not only a matter of fairness and integrity, but one that is absolutely critical to CIA’s success. Given our global mission, no government agency stands to benefit more from diversity and inclusion than does CIA.

Excellence in foreign intelligence demands broad perspectives, both in our understanding of a complex world and in our approach to challenges and opportunities. Diversity—of thought, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences—is essential to CIA’s mission success, and we need it at every level of our enterprise.

Therefore, in response to the study group’s findings and recommendations, I have ordered immediate actions at the highest levels of our Agency:

  • By 1 October, a new performance objective for Senior Intelligence Service officers will require that they be evaluated on their actions to create, maintain, and sustain a diverse and inclusive environment.
  • Within the next year, every officer on my senior leadership team will attend diversity and inclusion training.

Even before the study was completed, our senior leadership team took several steps to address issues related to the study’s findings. These include:

  • Requiring supervisors to participate in a 360-degree feedback program to raise their awareness of employees’ perceptions.
  • Engaging regularly with Agency Resource Groups, which represent diverse segments of our workforce, to hear firsthand about their concerns and priorities and to support their initiatives.
  • Establishing the Talent Center of Excellence, which will take an integrated approach to making the most of the Agency’s talent.

These initial actions are only the beginning of a comprehensive implementation process. In anticipation of the study’s completion, in February, I appointed a senior Agency officer with significant experience leading change, to spearhead the DLS implementation effort across CIA. This officer has a team in place and is crafting an implementation strategy. 

Making the DLS recommendations a reality will reinforce and strengthen the new organizational model that we are developing under the Modernization Program. Both efforts will be critical to enabling CIA to make the most of its extraordinarily talented workforce.

I want to thank Vernon Jordan and everyone involved in the DLS study for their leadership and dedication. And I urge every Agency officer to answer the study’s call to action and to join me in making CIA a place where all of America’s talent and perspectives are welcome and included, and where all individuals are empowered to reach their full potential.


Posted: Jun 30, 2015 12:16 PM
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2015 12:16 PM