The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, concluded that a piece of the systematic failure to prevent the terrorist attacks on September 9, 2011 was rooted in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) lack of inclusion.
When the commission spoke about inclusion, they did not mean inclusion from the perspective of racial, ethnic or gender diversity. They targeted the CIA’s non-inclusive culture when it comes to accepting internal and external feedback.
The commission concluded that as far back as the first Clinton Administration, low level CIA analysts had been trying to tell their superiors that terrorists had the capability to fly airplanes in the buildings as acts of mass destruction. How did CIA management miss all these signals? This is what the commission said about the most powerful intelligence organization in the world:
• Does not embrace change well.
• Is an insular organization.
• Has a deep rooted culture and climate that favors the status quo.
• Very resistant to both internal and external feedback.
Fast forward 14 years later and it appears the CIA still does not get inclusion albeit a different kind. In a study entitled “The Diversity in Leadership Study” released this week and led by civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, the CIA has some serious and deep rooted problems when it comes to recognizing and embracing differences in its ranks. Some of its findings include:
• Failure to recognize the critical role inclusion plays in its mission.
• Lack of diversity in its leadership echelons. Only two members of its leadership team are people of color.
• The pervasiveness of covering among persons with disabilities, people of color and GLBTQ individuals who indicated they had to hide their identities to be successful.
As our country’s first line of defense against threats and the guardian of our national security interests, how can the CIA protect us when it does not look like us? I hope we do not have to wait for the next terrorist attack to find out.