Discovering a Path Forward for Diversity in National Security

Charles Carithers
March 21, 2022

Diversity matters to our nation’s national security, plain and simple. To address the country’s most pressing national security and foreign policy challenges, it is paramount that our federal departments, offices and agencies have a workforce that is diverse in culture and life experience to meet complex issues head on. Having diversity of thought not only brings fresh perspectives and processes, but also helps remedy the paradigm of monolithic group think—where you look at the same problem from the same lens expecting different outcomes or solutions—which can be detrimental to our nation’s security at home and abroad.

Personally, during my experience as a national security practitioner, I have found greater success when placed on teams with a disparate group of individuals, and I have worked to share that notion with colleagues to achieve greater collective success on behalf of organizations. One of the ways I have shared that notion was by working with my Cornerstone team members throughout February, in celebration of Black History Month, to participate in several events surrounding the topic of diversity in national security.

Of note, the firm chose to partner with Black Professionals in International Affairs, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the involvement of African Americans in international affairs, for a panel discussion to explore why there is a legitimate need for greater diversity in the national security and foreign policy arena. Our well-respected panelists from different sectors of the industry discussed the direct impact of diversity and creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Throughout the event, our panelists analyzed perhaps the greatest present challenge: how to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. There is a passion for public service among diverse communities in the United States. In fact, most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have a mission for public service.

There should be a sustained commitment from executive branch departments, offices and agencies for engaging HBCUs and MSIs. This commitment goes beyond simply attending a job fair on a college campus. There need to be proactive efforts of engaging students directly inside the classrooms. Diverse students need to see government employees that look like them, that come from the same walk of life with similar lived experiences. Additionally, for those very same reasons, employees early in their careers need to see more leaders who look like them at varying levels of management along with a clearer path for career progression.

With a robust lineup of national security clients, and now several HBCU clients, Cornerstone plans to continue encouraging these fruitful conversations between key national security stakeholders to create partnerships that can impact the future direction of the industry.

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Charles Carithers

Principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University