The Intelligence National Security Alliance (INSA) – a trade group that advocates for intelligence and national security priorities – is calling on the U.S. intelligence community (IC) to review existing “assumptions” around granting clearances to U.S. citizens with foreign ties in order to better attract members of the IC workforce.

Those and other recommendations are featured in a new whitepaper, Promoting Cultural Diversity in the Intelligence Community: Recruiting and Clearing Personnel with Foreign Ties, which was developed by INSA’s Security Policy Reform Council.  The paper states that the IC views recruiting and retaining a culturally diverse workforce as a strategic priority, however it also argues that the security clearance process doesn’t lend itself to achieving this goal.

The whitepaper provides a number of recommendations for action on security clearances in order to achieve a diverse workforce, including:

  • Identifying the “essential skills” needed to fill mission-critical roles;
  • Training recruiters on practices regarding the assessment of applicants’ foreign ties;
  • Developing bias awareness training for all officials involved in recruiting, hiring, and investigating;
  • Directing employees with high-risk foreign ties to security and counterintelligence trainings; and
  • Compiling lessons learned and sharing best practices with industry.

“To understand dynamics in foreign countries, intelligence agencies need to hire people with native language skills, cultural expertise, and experience living and traveling abroad, many of whom have family and friends overseas who are not U.S. citizens,” said Larry Hanauer, INSA’s Vice President for Policy.

“Although these patriotic Americans are positioned to make unique contributions to the IC, the government’s approach of eliminating, rather than mitigating, risk makes it inordinately difficult for them to receive a security clearance. As a result, the IC loses out in the competition for top talent,” he said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.