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Sewell slams intelligence community heads for failure to appear at intel diversity hearing

U.S. Rep. Terri A Sewell, D-Selma, expressed her disappointment Thursday that intelligence community leaders declined to attend a hearing on diversity and inclusion in the intelligence community.

“While I’m happy that the committee will discuss the issues at hand, I am disappointed that none of the intelligence community agency directors are here to testify today,” Sewell said. “In 1995, 2001, in 2003 the committee held similar hearings on the diversity in the IC topics, and at those hearings, the directors of NRO, NGA, NSA, DIA and Central Intelligence Agency participated as witnesses. It is frustrating to me as a member of this committee who has dedicated a lot of her time to promoting what I consider to be the greatest asset we have in the IC, and that is its workforce. It is its people. I think all of us know that vision starts from the top, commitment starts from the top, and that starts with appearing before a committee that has oversight over that workforce.”

“I would like to submit for the record that we did give an invitation to the director of the of the NSA, the Honorable Paul Nakasone, we also sent an invitation to Director Coats of the ODNI, CIA Director Gina Haspel, as well as to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Honorable Joseph Kernan,” Sewell continued. “It is frustrating to me because I know that this is critically important, and that we as taxpayers, deserve to understand how our taxpayer money is being spent. This committee authorizes, in both classified and unclassified budgets, to all 17 agencies in billions and billions of dollars. That means that we should have direct oversight on how that money is being spent.”

“The CIA’s 2015 Diversity in Leadership study concluded that agency leaders, managers and supervisors do not prioritize diversity in leadership,” Sewell said. “Sadly, Mr. Chairman, by the fact that we do not have the heads of the agencies sitting before us, I can only conclude that diversity, while a priority, is not a top priority across the IC.”

Sewell pointed out that while minorities make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, they make up just 25 percent of the intelligence community workforce. Sewell said combining diverse skills, perspectives and situations is necessary to effectively meet the multi-faceted, dynamic challenges of security. Lack of said diversity threatens the intelligence community’s ability to most effectively address the nation’s emerging and ongoing threats.

The hearing today was the first on diversity and inclusion within the intelligence community in over a decade.

Sewell is a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, She is serving in her fifth term representing Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District.

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To see video of Sewell’s remarks:

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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