Biden’s DEI mandates creating very real national security threats

Editor’s note: The following is an exclusively adapted excerpt from Cliff Sims’s ‘The Darkness Has Not Overcome: Lessons on Faith & Politics from Inside the Halls of Power.’

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence just sparked outrage by publishing an op-ed by a current intelligence officer claiming his experience as a crossdresser somehow makes him better at his job. Blowback over such issues is typically met with dismissive eye rolls from Democrats – and even some Republicans – who argue that conservatives should stop waging culture wars.  

It’s an ironic response, considering the aggressiveness with which the left has imposed its woke cultural ideology on American institutions. But regardless of where one stands on that debate – or whether one cares at all – the Biden administration has made reaching various diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) benchmarks a top goal in its National Intelligence Strategy, and we should consider the implications of this prioritization on U.S. national security.  

One of the most important roles of a leader in any organization is to set clear priorities. This is a particularly difficult challenge for the director of National Intelligence, who nominally oversees a sprawling enterprise of 18 organizations and agencies, and roughly 100,000 people.  

As a result, the opportunity cost of making DEI a central focus is that other national security priorities – be they intelligence domains, regions or hard-target countries, non-state terrorist groups, new technologies or deciding which personnel get promoted into leadership roles – simply do not get the level of attention they otherwise would.  

The question then must be, is this trade-off worth it? After all, diversity is undeniably important in the intelligence profession. Who’s going to have an easier time blending in on the streets of Tehran: an ethnic Persian for whom Farsi is their native language, or someone who looks and talks like me?  

Or perhaps even more relevant, when you’re trying to understand the circumstances surrounding a pandemic outbreak that originated in China, wouldn’t it help to have virologists on the team who are fluent in Mandarin? This was actually a real challenge that slowed down our ability to translate and analyze certain intelligence about the origins of COVID-19. 

These relevant examples of diversity are not, however, what the IC’s DEI focus seems to be about. 

The first time I visited the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in 2020 while working in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the hallways were lined with graphics touting various DEI programs and initiatives and proclaiming the importance of each officer’s ‘identity.’ ‘TRANS LIVES ARE HUMAN LIVES,’ read one handmade poster hanging outside of the cafeteria. 

Before long, I had the surprising realization that a large number of so-called intelligence officers weren’t spending any of their time on intelligence, much less on foreign threats to the nation, because their entire taxpayer-funded job was devoted to political advocacy and bullying into submission anyone who dared not fall in line. 

The IC’s DEI office was viewed among even the most senior intelligence officers with a sense of fear and trepidation. Leadership in the office was the subject of numerous HR complaints, both formally and informally, for their hostility and secret police-style attitude toward their colleagues. 

But for the most part, people just wanted to keep their heads down and stay out of the line of fire at a time – not just in the IC, but nationwide – when getting crossways with the DEI police could be career and reputational suicide. 

At one point I wondered how things had devolved to such a point, only to realize that in 2019, when then-DNI Dan Coates was in office, he had allowed the seeds of DEI to be planted in the National Intelligence Strategy by touting ‘diversity and inclusion’ in its ‘people’ section. By the time we arrived in 2020 with a mandate, in part, to depoliticize the IC, those seeds had grown into a DEI forest. 

To new DNI John Ratcliffe’s credit, he made his priorities clear through both words and actions. China-focused intelligence spending was increased by 20%, and in numerous public appearances, statements and even a rare public op-ed, Ratcliffe stated plainly: China is national security threat No. 1. 

During the Biden administration, there have been some encouraging continuations of the China-focused intelligence efforts we began under President Donald Trump. But they have been overshadowed by global events spiraling into chaos on their watch, from Eastern Europe, to the Middle East, to America’s southern border.  

Yet through it all, their unwavering DEI focus has remained, naturally leading to the question, with real wars breaking out, why is the Biden administration continuing to wage culture wars in the IC?  

Even in the wake of a Chinese spy balloon traversing the continental United States, the internal magazine produced by the ODNI’s IC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Office, was devoted to ‘the importance of words,’ like making sure no one’s feelings are hurt by the word choices of intelligence analysts writing about the malign activities of the Chinese Communist Party.  

The publication also urged intelligence officers to stop using words like ‘radical Islamists’ and ‘jihadist’ for fear that they might cause offense. Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton rightly responded to this by saying, ‘Intelligence officers should spend their time finding terrorists, not worrying about whether they will offend them.’ 

In short, the IC’s DEI efforts are nothing more than an attempt to impose far-left, woke identity politics on U.S. national security institutions. Conspicuously absent from their so-called diversity efforts are any mention of ideological diversity, or of the inclusion of officers whose religious beliefs compel them to empathetically but firmly reject the idea that gender is fluid or decline to comply with mandates to use gender pronouns that don’t align with biological sex. 

The lack of this type of diversity has already yielded concrete problems in the national security bureaucracy, such as the FBI leveraging intelligence requirements to collect information on ‘traditional Catholics’ in the United States. Would a more diverse intelligence community – one that respects traditional religious views – raise concerns about such intelligence tasking, or even consider targeting fellow Americans based on their sincerely held beliefs? 

The next leaders of the U.S. intelligence community should take concrete steps to ensure a truly diverse IC that focuses on clear, concrete national security priorities. 

The first time I visited the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in 2020 while working in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the hallways were lined with graphics touting various DEI programs and initiatives and proclaiming the importance of each officer’s ‘identity.’ ‘TRANS LIVES ARE HUMAN LIVES,’ read one handmade poster hanging outside of the cafeteria. 

First and foremost, no one should have to sacrifice their religious beliefs as a condition of employment. We must protect the First Amendment rights of officers who do not want to participate in mandated DEI training or forced pronoun usage. IC contractors should also be required to protect those same freedoms as a condition of doing business with the government.  

Talent recruitment efforts should expand further outside of the Ivy League bubble – from where so many intelligence officers have traditionally come – into attracting more top students from state schools and historically Black colleges and universities.  

The so-called elite institutions have become woke indoctrination factories, meaning the IC’s pipeline of talent is being disproportionately filled with individuals trained to prioritize ideological conformity over critical thinking. And in light of the alarming rise of antisemitism on these campuses, it is increasingly hard to argue that such institutions are the best places to train a truly diverse secret workforce. 

Perhaps most importantly, IC DEI offices should be abolished. That money should be diverted to further bolstering capacity to confront the threat of a rising and adversarial China. And the IC’s personnel evaluations and career development tracks should focus on ensuring the best spies and analysts are promoted based on merit, not ideology 

Ultimately, the next leaders of the U.S. intelligence community should stand up to the DEI bullies – for the sake of both workforce morale and U.S. national security – restore meritocracy in the workplace and build a culture that unites around the collective mission of keeping the American people safe instead of dividing along the lines of individual identity. 

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