WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), recently introduced legislation to strengthen employee diversity in the U.S. national security workforce through enhanced hiring, retention, and growth practices. The National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act of 2019 (S. 497) would codify that a diverse U.S. national security workforce is a strategic asset, enhancing our nation’s capabilities and global leadership. The legislation begins with a clear statement of fact: “The greatest national asset of the United States in protecting the homeland and advancing the interests of the United States abroad is the talent and diversity of the national security workforce.”
Senator Cardin: “The diversity of the American people is one of our greatest assets as a nation. Our national security agencies, especially those on the frontlines representing America around the world, should reflect this reality. Currently, these agencies do not meet the standards they should and are less diverse than the rest of the Federal Government. This legislation gives our national security agencies the tools they need to recruit and support strong candidates who draw from the vast perspectives of the American public. When America leads with our values on display, whether we are promoting human rights abroad or helping resolve conflicts to help societies heal and move forward, it should be done with personnel who reflect the entire tapestry of the United States.”
“There’s a long and fraught history of our national security apparatus keeping women and minorities out,” Senator Schatz said. “It’s no longer official policy to discriminate, but the remnants are there. If we’re going to right the wrong so that our national security workforce is made of the best and brightest, regardless of gender, race, or anything else, then we need to make a concerted effort. That’s what this bill does.”
The National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act of 2019 (S. 497) would require each national security agency to make available to the public, appropriate congressional committees, and the national security agency workforce a report on its diversity and inclusion efforts. The bill defines “diversity” as diversity of persons based on gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and other demographic categories.
It also would require each national security agency to:
- develop a system to collect and analyze applicant employment data to identify areas for improvement in attracting diverse talent, with emphasis on senior and management positions;
- conduct periodic interviews with a representative cross-section of the national security workforce to obtain workplace information;
- sponsor workforce members to participate in a Senior Executive Service candidate development program or similar program;
- implement performance and advancement requirements for the workforce;
- create opportunities for senior personnel to participate in outreach events and to discuss issues relating to diversity and inclusion; and
- expand training on bias in the workplace and flexible work policies.
Lastly, the bill encourages relevant agencies to expand professional development and career advancement opportunities that support their mission and to seek a diverse and talented pool of employment applicants by reaching out to educational organizations and professional associations.