CIA director tells Latino professionals agency has 'woeful' record of hiring Hispanics

CIA Director John O. Brennan on March 13, 2015 in New York City.

CIA Director John O. Brennan on March 13, 2015 in New York City.  (2015 Getty Images)

In a rare public appearance, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency spoke to a largely Latino audience in New York on Monday and addressed the dearth of Hispanics in the spy agency’s ranks.

CIA Director John Brennan spoke about the agency’s "woeful" record of hiring and promoting Hispanics during a speech at the annual convention of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) – where Brennan and the CIA's highest-ranking Latina, Deputy Executive Director Carmen Middleton, were on hand to meet potential job applicants.

"I believe strongly in this not just because I'm CEO of the CIA and because I believe the agency needs to be able to optimize diversity within the agency to help us do our job, but because I am the son of an immigrant and come from a blue-collar background," Brennan said, according to NBC.

His remarks come less than two months after an internal study conducted by the agency found that while its rank-and-file employees reflect the growing diversity of the United States, its leadership still remains less diverse. The study also found that the agency has seen a decline in the recruitment of highly skilled minority candidates.

"Since 2008, the percentage of minorities hired has declined to levels lower than what is necessary to sustain the level of minority representation in the current workforce," it stated. "Building and sustaining a diverse leadership pipeline will not be possible without improved results in recruiting officers from all segments of American society."

The percentage of Latinos in the top ranks of the agency, the Senior Intelligence Service, has leveled off at around 2.5 percent over the past five years.

"The federal government is woefully lacking in representation of Hispanics,” Middleton said on Monday. “So much of the reason why we don't have strong Hispanic representation at the CIA is because they just don't know it's a possibility."

Besides attending conventions like ALPFA, Middleton said that the CIA would also be recruiting on colleges that are considered "historically Spanish Schools" – also known as Hispanic Serving Institutions – and will be working to get "under the data" to determine why the agency has been unsuccessful in recruiting more Latinos.

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