Intelligence Community:

Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Workforce Diversity Planning and Oversight

GAO-21-83: Published: Dec 17, 2020. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 2020.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Brian M. Mazanec
(202) 512-5130
mazanecb@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Recruiting, developing, and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce is part of the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy.

The Intelligence Community's workforce in FY2011-2019 had slight increases in the proportions of women (+.7%), racial or ethnic minorities (+3.3%), and persons with disabilities (+6.2%). But proportions of women and racial or ethnic minorities stayed below federal workforce benchmarks, and proportions of persons with disabilities didn't meet federal goals.

The Intelligence Community follows many leading practices for managing diversity, but we recommended doing more to enhance planning, measure progress, and assess barriers.

stacked hands

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Brian M. Mazanec
(202) 512-5130
mazanecb@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported that the representation of some demographic groups within the Intelligence Community (IC) workforce increased from fiscal years 2011 through 2019—the latest available data. Over this period, the proportion of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities changed by .7, 3.3, and 6.2 percentage points, respectively. However, the representation of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities remained below comparable benchmarks and declined among higher ranks in fiscal year 2019.

IC elements report taking steps to address leading practices for managing workforce diversity, but report gaps in diversity planning. GAO found that most IC elements report taking steps to address seven of nine leading practices for diversity management. For the remaining two leading practices—strategic planning and measurement—most elements report taking one or no steps.

Number of Intelligence Community (IC) Elements and the Steps They Report Taking to Implement Leading Practices for Workforce Diversity Management, as of August 2020

GAO leading practices

Number of IC elements that report taking steps

Leadership commitment

17 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps

Recruitment

14 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, and three IC elements report taking one step

Employee involvement

14 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, two IC elements report taking one step, and one IC element reports taking no step

Diversity training

14 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, and three IC elements report taking one step

Performance

12 of 17 IC elements linked diversity management with enhanced performance while five IC elements did not

Succession planning

9 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, and eight IC elements report taking one step

Accountability

9 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, seven IC elements report taking one step, and one IC element reports taking no steps

Strategic planning

3 of 17 IC elements have current and complete strategic plans

Measurement

6 of 17 IC elements have diversity-related performance measures

Source: GAO analysis of IC element documents and GAO leading practices for diversity management. | GAO-21-83

Further, while all IC elements report having a process to identify barriers to diversity, nine IC elements report not completing required barrier assessments. Without fully implementing leading practices for managing workforce diversity and conducting routine barrier assessments, the IC may miss opportunities to develop effective and efficient diversity policies and programs.

ODNI's Office of Intelligence Community Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (IC EEOD) is meeting seven of eight leading practices for enhancing and sustaining the coordination of diversity initiatives across the 17 IC elements. However, IC EEOD partially met the practice to reinforce agency accountability. Specifically, IC EEOD has not established IC-wide implementation objectives and timeframes to demonstrate progress. As a result, IC EEOD risks not holding IC elements accountable for enhancing workforce diversity.

Why GAO Did This Study

The 2019 National Intelligence Strategy states that the IC will recruit, develop, and retain a diverse, inclusive, and expert workforce to enable mission success. ODNI reports that the IC is taking steps to increase the representation of diverse groups, such as issuing new strategies to enhance workforce planning. However, barriers to establishing a diverse workforce exist across the IC, according to an ODNI 2017 analysis.

GAO was asked to review the IC's progress in enhancing workforce diversity. This report (1) summarizes ODNI annual demographic reports on the proportion of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities; and assesses the extent to which (2) IC elements report taking steps to address leading practices for managing workforce diversity and to identify potential barriers to maintaining a diverse workforce; and (3) ODNI is addressing leading practices for coordinating IC workforce diversity initiatives. GAO reviewed IC-wide and IC element specific policies and guidance; interviewed ODNI, and other IC officials; and administered a questionnaire to all 17 IC elements to obtain information on diversity strategies and challenges.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making seven recommendations, including that the Director of National Intelligence issue or update guidance to ensure IC elements maintain diversity strategic plans, assess and take steps to eliminate barriers to diversity, and establish implementation objectives and timeframes to hold IC elements accountable. ODNI agreed with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130 or mazanecb@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should issue new or update existing guidance to require all IC elements to maintain current and complete diversity strategic plans that contain specific objectives, timeframes, and responsibilities. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should ensure that IC elements are making progress toward maintaining current and complete diversity strategic plans. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should issue new or update existing guidance to ensure that IC elements develop performance measures to assess the contribution of activities toward achieving diversity goals and overall progress. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should ensure that IC elements are making progress toward developing measures to assess progress toward achieving diversity management efforts. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should issue new or update existing guidance to ensure that each IC element routinely identifies and takes steps toward eliminating barriers to workforce diversity. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should ensure that IC elements are routinely completing required assessments to identify and eliminate barriers. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the department secretary or head of the IC element, as appropriate, and consistent with the Director of National Intelligence's authority, should establish specific implementation objectives and timeframes for the IC elements that support IC-wide diversity goals to ensure IC elements are held accountable for making progress. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Feb 9, 2021

Dec 3, 2020

Oct 19, 2020

Oct 16, 2020

Sep 8, 2020

Jul 22, 2020

Jun 23, 2020

Jun 17, 2020

Jun 11, 2020

Mar 19, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here