New policy guidance from the Director of National Intelligence directs the U.S. intelligence community to provide equal opportunities “for the hiring, placement, and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities,” as required by law.
“IC elements shall be model employers for individuals with disabilities,” wrote DNI Dan Coats. See Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 110.1, February 26, 2019.
As of 2017, 7.9% of the U.S. intelligence community workforce was made up of persons with disabilities, compared to an 8.99% disability rate in the federal workforce and 17.5% in the overall civilian labor force. (A disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual.”)
“Persistent workplace challenges continue to exist for women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in the IC. Unfortunately, the IC’s aggressive efforts to improve diversity and inclusion are not having their intended effects,” according to a 2017 ODNI report on the subject (that pre-dated the appointment of Gina Haspel as CIA Director).
While many of the challenges facing disabled persons are generic and widespread, some are unique to intelligence agencies.
“Employees with disabilities may… be specifically challenged by sitting for a polygraph. Participants expressed concern that certain disabilities, such as mobility limitations or respiratory impairments, may impact polygraph testing results.”
The premise of the declared IC policy on diversity and inclusion is that it benefits the country by enabling the employment of qualified persons who would otherwise be excluded from the workforce or denied full participation. Of all disfavored groups, disabled persons reflect the broadest cross section of the public.
“A disability can happen to anyone, at any point in life, and is the one variable that crosses all demographic lines,” the ODNI study said. “Greater diversity exists among persons with disabilities than for any other demographic group, but they may be the least understood by society at large, and by extension, by decision makers and the general workforce within the IC.”