Lawmakers push for more diversity at Homeland Security

"I can say that there is a lack of diversity. I can say that these incidents happened. I can say that with only one exception, those who carried out these actions were not disciplined," said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. "My concern is that this lack of diversity coupled with low morale will hamper this department's mission effectiveness. And that is too high a price to pay."
The incidents Thompson and others referred to include racist e-mails circulated by 20 Secret Service supervisors, a noose placed in the workspace of an African-American Coast Guard cadet, and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Halloween party in which an employee came dressed as an African-American prisoner. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said she was particularly disturbed by the Secret Service e-mails, one of which joked about the potential assassination of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and said she hoped the committee would further investigate racial bias in the Secret Service.
Despite those incidents, Elaine Duke, undersecretary for management at DHS, said the department recognizes both the moral imperative and the business case for diversity.
"Expanding diversity such as gender, geographic, economic, ethnic and veteran representation of this workforce will increase the variety of available skills and knowledge that can be employed in pursuit of the department's success, thereby bringing greater benefit to the American public," Duke said.
George Staculp, director of strategic issues at the Government Accountability Office, said DHS' efforts to increase diversity, which include outreach to historically black colleges, regional internship programs, career training, partnerships with minority senior executive associations, and expanded mentoring and coaching initiatives are "consistent with several leading diversity management practices." Duke said performance reviews under the new evaluation system implemented in October will rate managers on their efforts to promote diversity.
GAO's workforce analysis suggests that DHS is more diverse in some areas than the rest of government. Hispanic representation is more than 10 percent higher than the governmentwide average. DHS' workforce is 14.6 percent Hispanic men and 4.9 percent Hispanic women, compared with 3.6 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, for the rest of government. African-American men comprise 7.1 percent of DHS employees, compared with 6.9 percent governmentwide. But the department still lags behind the rest of government in employing African-American and white women.
Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said he was disappointed that legal restrictions, limitations on hiring authorities and the requirement that applicants go through USAJobs.gov to apply for most positions prevented DHS from pursuing minority applicants more aggressively.
DHS' overall record on race is "absolutely unacceptable," complained Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J. "We should have the secretary here, because he does a lot of talking about how wonderfully everything is shaping up....Let's call it the way it is."


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