DNI Clapper's as Delivered Remarks at the IC Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity Leadership Summit

DNI Clapper's as Delivered Remarks at the IC Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity Leadership Summit


Remarks as delivered by
The Honorable James R. Clapper
Director of National Intelligence

IC Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity Leadership Summit On
Hiring & Promotion Pipeline for African American & Hispanic American Officers

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Intelligence Community Campus – Bethesda, Md.

Today marks an interesting and very American anniversary, a 1935 event that, in 2010, Sports Illustrated called, “The Greatest 45 Minutes Ever in Sports.” I’m betting most people around our nation have never heard of it. Any guesses?

Eighty-one years ago, today, at the 1935 Big Ten Track and Field Championships, in the span of about 45 minutes, Jesse Owens first tied the world record in the 100-yard dash and then broke world records in the long jump, the 220-yard dash, and the 220 low hurdles.

That’s averaging a 15 minute rest between each of those four world records. And technically, it was five world records, because his time in the 220-yard dash was faster than the record for the 200-meter dash, which is a shorter distance. So the record books also listed his 220-yard time for the 200-meter record.

But his achievements that day aren’t what we remember Jesse Owens for. We remember his performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a little more than a year later, for going into Nazi Germany and winning four gold medals, in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and the 4 by 100 meter relay. We remember the ’36 Olympics because his medals tell a story about America, one that we still celebrate.

And this summer, on August 5 when the 2016 Games open in Rio, we’ll all take pride watching the U.S. delegation enter the stadium. We always take pride in the diversity of the team that walks in behind the American flag. One of our great strengths as a nation is in valuing diversity.

The world of sports was in many ways ahead of the rest of American society, but we’ve come to value diversity in nearly-all segments of society. And we in the Intelligence Community have come to recognize just how important diversity is for our community to be strong and vital. So whenever I have the opportunity, I talk about how diversity and inclusion are more fundamental to the Intelligence Community than to most other professional walks of life.

We should represent our nation, and we must empower every member of our workforce, regardless of differences, because those are the right things to do. But we also have a business and mission case for why diversity and inclusion are essential. Put simply, if we get together a bunch of people who all look and think alike to brainstorm about some problems we have, we’ll all come up with similar ideas about what to do. If you look back through our history at prominent intelligence failures – particularly as laid out by the Iraq WMD Commission, you’ll see that each time, diverse thinking by people with diverse life experiences might have prevented the mistakes we made.

But here’s an important distinction – hiring a diverse workforce is not enough. We won’t reap the benefits of that diversity unless we also foster a culture of inclusion. People in our Intelligence Community who belong to a minority group, whether that’s because of their national origin, native language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, need to feel welcome in our community, and they need to know they shouldn’t hide what makes them unique. It’s from our differences that we draw our strengths.

It’s the same reasoning behind our strategy to integrate the 17 Intelligence Community components. “Integration” doesn’t mean turning the Community into a bland and boring bowl of oatmeal. It doesn’t mean making everyone the same. Every Intelligence Community component has its own culture and its own flavor of tradecraft.

When I’m discussing this out in the public sphere, I tell them that each Intelligence Community agency or element has something it’s better at doing than any other organization in the world, and integration means that each Intelligence Community component embraces its own culture and what it’s the best at, but also works very hard to understand what everyone else is the best at, and then we look for ways to work together to best take advantage of their individual strengths. We try to make that happen institutionally. So, accordingly, we bring our most appropriate IC resources to the table to take on our hardest IC problems.

The same concept applies to our workforce. We have to celebrate our differences know where unique perspectives lie and tap into them. That’s our “business and mission case” for diversity and inclusion. It’s something PDDNI Stephanie O’Sullivan first laid out in detail three years ago. And it’s something we’ve put a lot of thought and energy into for a lot longer than that.

In some demographics, we’ve made substantial progress: in our diversity hiring, in inclusion and empowering our employees, and in advancement and our representation in senior ranks. We’re here today to talk about two specific demographics for which we haven’t shown much progress. That’s with hiring and promoting African American and Hispanic American employees. Great intentions, and lots of energy aren’t always enough.

When Jesse Owens talked about the years after he became famous, he said, "After I came home from the 1936 Olympics with my four medals, it became increasingly apparent that everyone was going to slap me on the back, want to shake my hand or have me up to their suite, but no one was going to offer me a job."

1936 was 80 years ago. That legacy of institutional racism still affects opportunities for African Americans today, and the Hispanic American community has felt similar prejudices with similar results. We can’t go back and fix history, and we can’t, from here, level the playing field across every sector of our country or our world, but we can take a serious and sober look at our own practices in the U.S. Intelligence Community, because we, as an IC, are behind both the U.S. civilian workforce and the federal workforce writ large, and over the course of many years, despite a lot of effort, our numbers haven’t changed significantly. So we’ve got to do something differently.

That’s why we’re holding this first-ever summit, specifically to look at our African American and Hispanic American hiring and promotion pipelines in the context of our Intelligence Community business and mission case, and to figure out what to do now. I’ve got 240 days left in my tenure. I expect the outcome of today’s summit will include bringing something to me that I can act on, something I can take to the Intelligence Community component directors, something we can implement within 90 days. That may mean building on programs we have, or it may mean starting something new.

I already know one thing that we’ll do differently. Starting this year, we’re releasing an unclassified Intelligence Community demographics report. We’ve delivered it to our oversight committees already, and within the next two weeks we’ll release it online for the public. We’re going to draw some scrutiny, some of it not to our liking. But we should draw some scrutiny. That public report is going to put pressure on future leaders to make things better, because we’ll be held even more accountable. That’s another reason why I believe transparency is a good thing.

Going public with our demographics is a significant step, but by itself it’s not going to improve minority representation in the Intelligence Community. So if you need permission to think big or to think differently, I’m giving it to you right now.

Jesse Owens once said, "We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort."

There are young men and women out there who will bring those qualities to our IC workforce, if they feel like they have a chance to contribute to our mission. There are IC employees out there who bring those qualities to work every day and wonder, rightly or wrongly, if that’s enough. They need to feel they are valued, and to know that we can’t meet our mission without the unique qualities they bring to our Intelligence Community. We can give that to them.