Each year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issues a report to Congress on the hiring and retention of minorities, women and persons with disabilities in the United States Intelligence Community (IC) as required under Public Law 116-92, Section 5604. The 52-page report for 2020 focuses not only how the IC* did as a whole when comparing itself to its past, but also how it compared to other federal agencies and the civilian workplace.

IC Mission

To successfully complete its stated mission: “Provide timely, insightful, objective, and relevant intelligence and support to inform national security decisions and to protect our Nation and its interests” the agency knows it can best do that by mirroring the diversity of its workforce to the demographics found in our communities and Nation. Specifically, the report demonstrates how well the IC did in 2020 in regard to accomplishing its mission in the hiring and recruitment of minorities, women and persons with disabilities.

As everyone knows, 2020 was not a normal year. But even in the midst of a global pandemic, the IC was recognized as an employer of choice for FY2020 – the 13th straight year in a row for the distinction. In addition, they also were bestowed the “Most Improved Award” by The Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group and listed 3rd in the large federal agency category in the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” for 2019.

The Inclusion Quotient

Part of the IC Hiring and Recruitment report are the results from the Intelligence Quotient – a 20-question assessment by IC employees as far as their perception on how the agency treats them in the areas of fairness, openness, cooperation, support, and empowerment. An interesting point is that while the IC hiring and recruitment numbers are generally lower than other federal agencies, they historically place higher in employee satisfaction. With 2019 as the latest numbers available, the IC scored 76% versus 62% for all the other federal agencies. Since 2016, the IC has always scored 9 to 10 percentage points higher than other federal agencies in the Inclusion Quotient.  

The numbers

For 2020, the number of IC minority employees rose from 26.5% to 27.0%; people with disabilities (PWD) increased from 11.5% to 11.9%; the number of women employed by the agency overall remained a constant 39.3%.

However, IC employees departing the agency points out that retention is one area that needs more focus. For example, the number of minorities that left the agency rose from 25.4% in 2019 to 26.2% in 2020. Another area of concern is the reason for the disparity between the number of minorities applying verses the number actually hired.

Women and people with disabilities are also a concern. For example, attrition in women employees increased from 37.4% to 40.2%. What is behind this increase?

The number of PWD employees actually decreased from 12.3% to 12.1%. Why did that number go down? In both cases, the “why” behind these numbers is yet to be determined. Some suspect that the pandemic was the major driving factor, but are there also other factors at play?


Within this category, the number of IC employees identifying as Black or African American, Hispanic or Asian increased while other minorities – Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native – remained unchanged. However, even with an increase, the IC minority percentage of employees is over 10% lower than the federal workforce overall – 27.0% to 37.7%, respectively, and 11% lower than the civilian work force.


As noted earlier, the percentage of women in the IC remained constant from 2019 through 2020. Their number of 39.3% to 43.4% and 47.0% in the federal and civilian workforces, respectively. While women new hires increased to 41.0%, the net gain of zero was offset by higher attrition – 2% higher in 2020 than the previous year.

The pandemic could have been the driving force behind the higher attrition as more women than men abated their careers to stay home because of issues created by the pandemic, like childcare, homeschooling, etc.  Drilling deeper into the attrition numbers, the report found 53.4% of the women leaving the IC retired, while 41.4% resigned. On a positive note, overall 44.0% of the women departing had been there 15 years or more.

People With Disabilities

The diversity goal set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Federal Sector is 12% of the federal workforce should be people with disabilities (PWD). The IC has failed to yet achieve that goal; however, they have increased their PWD representation significantly over the last five years going from 8.4% in 2016 to 11.9% in 2020**. Of the people departing the IC as a whole in 2020, 13.2% were PWD; of that, 53.1% retired and 38.6% resigned. Of the PWD departing, 15.8% had been with the agency between 10 and 15 years. Looking at the figures, one has to wonder if the pandemic played a large part in those deciding to leave whether retiring or resigning, much that same as it affected women employees.

Senior Ranks

In regard to the three categories in the report – minorities, women and people with disabilities – one area that requires more attention is their representation in the Senior Ranks. Each of these categories are under-represented at 15.5%, 31.3% and 7.7%, minorities, women and PWD, respectively. While each category had increases over the previous year, they are not yet at their demographic target of mirrored representation in this employment category.

As a result, this report shows “The IC must continue to strive to attract, retain and advance a more diverse, inclusive and expert workforce to optimize our nation’s security, deliver innovation, improve insight and provide the highest quality of intelligence to our decision-makers”. It will be interesting to see the number in next year’s report as the Nation moves toward a new post-pandemic normal.


* The IC consists of six main agencies:

  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)
  • National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)
  • National Security Agency (NSA)

** The percentages include both categories disabled employees: People with Disabilities and People with Targeted Disabilities.



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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.