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Diversity and U.S. National Security

Why It Matters, and What Can Be Done

U.S. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton at the 50th anniversery of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington, August 2013. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

On October 5, 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a memorandum entitled “Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce,” which stated that “as the United States becomes more diverse and the challenges we face more complex, we must continue to invest in policies to recruit, retain, and develop the best and brightest from all segments of our population.” As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office, he has a unique opportunity to heed that advice and commit to improving diversity in the ranks of the national security establishment. To be sure, his derogatory statements about women and ethnic minority groups during the presidential campaign, as well as some of the appointments and nominations he has announced to date, have led many to question his views on diversity. But that is why a public commitment to ensuring diversity in America’s national security workforce is all the more urgent.

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