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Message from the Director: The Critical Value of Diversity

Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency David H. Petraeus on the Critical Value of Diversity

October 13, 2011


Innovation and creativity are defining features and traditions of our Agency.  At the end of World War II, Major General William J. Donovan, head of our predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services, described the OSS as an “experiment…to determine whether a group of Americans constituting a cross-section of racial origins, of abilities, temperaments, and talents” could succeed at the difficult tasks of intelligence.  Each day, we continue that experiment, and each day, we show what Americans of all backgrounds can do.

For us, then, diversity is neither new nor unproven.  It is both who we are and essential to mission success.  Excellence in foreign intelligence requires broad perspectives, both in our understanding of a complex world and in our approach to problems and solutions.  Our country, diverse as it is, has always had the talent we need, and we have recruited heavily from communities old and new, and from a dazzling variety of schools and specialties.

Our key challenge now is to ensure that the CIA’s extraordinarily gifted and dedicated workforce is contributing to its full potential.  That means we must, at every level, be as inclusive as possible in our composition and in how we make decisions.  We must foster a climate in which a sound range of views is heard and assessed, and in which the ideas and skills of each officer are given due weight and consideration.  That sort of intellectual process, open yet disciplined, is a critical element of leadership.  You should expect it of me, just as I expect it of you.

In gauging our progress on diversity, statistics have value, and I will be asking my senior leaders for regular updates.  Raw numbers alone, though, are not enough.  We need to take a hard look at our leadership pipelines and how we select officers for growth assignments, not simply at the higher grades, but at every grade.  Our goal is the strongest mix of people deployed across our professions, at each stage of career development.

Where we fall short, we will make changes.  Intelligence work is teamwork, and we have a duty, in our own teams, to reinforce each day the values of diversity, fairness, respect, and inclusion.  As we do, we will be true to our ideals as Americans, and we will help strengthen an already agile, dynamic organization that can meet the security challenges of a dangerous and constantly changing world.  General Donovan knew that in his time.  We can never forget it in ours.

Historical Document
Posted: Oct 13, 2011 10:38 AM
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2013 01:32 PM