[Slideshow] Obama’s New National Security Team—Better Put on Your Sunglasses

Will Obama’s inner circle remain overwhelmingly white and male during his second term?

Will President Obama’s inner circle of advisors be largely white and male for a second term? And what does that mean for global cultural competence and understanding the issues facing women and racial/ethnic/religious minorities that impact our nation’s security?
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  • Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, is the leading candidate for Secretary of State. Kerry would be the first white man to serve as Secretary of State since 1997.
  • Former Senator Chuck Hagel, a white man from Nebraska, has been nominated for Secretary of Defense. He would replace Leon Panetta, who is also a white man.
  • John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, has been nominated to succeed General David Petraeus as Director of the CIA. Petraeus and Brennan are both white men.
  • Five other senior members of the team, all white men—Tom Donilon, National Security Adviser; General Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency; General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; and Matthew Olson, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center—are expected to remain in their positions.
  • Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, will be replaced, but no finalists for the job have surfaced.

That leaves only two members of the team who are not white men:

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    • Harold Carrillo

      Please, there are plenty of non-white males in this great big country of ours that could perform those jobs. Think about it, you mean to tell me in the most talented country in the world with all its abundance on knowledge, skills and ability of its citizens these 4/5 white boys are all we’ve got? Horsefeathers! We see this all the time in corporate arena. Recycling “good ole white boys” over & over. Same thing here. Now the talent is out here just not in government. But, if in fact it is true, it’s a sad commentary on the state of things, huh?

  • White boys? Nice one. Bet you don’t have the balls to talk like that outside of a blog for self-pitying minorities.

    • Luke Visconti

      Let me know when you’re man enough to send a threat while using a real email address. In the meantime, I’ll send your IP address to the Cyber Crimes Unit of the New Jersey State Police. Guys like you are usually “of interest” to law enforcement for other activities. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I question whether the choice of words in the title is really productive. Imagine if lots of blacks were appoointed – too many blacks given their representation in the pool of qualified candidates. Imagine then that a headline was run saying “Better get your flashlights out – you may miss them if it is dark.” Would that be ok? Or are we choosing to define insensitive comments as those that are insensitive to _you_?

    By the way, Michael Mason was getting a serious look as Mueller’s successor at the FBI before Obama asked Mueller to stay on another two years.

    • Luke Visconti

      No, if an all-Black national security team were selected, our headline would probably be something like “World War III Ends in Stunning Loss for United States—All-Black National Security Team Selected” because that would be the only way an all-Black (or all-woman, or all-Latino, or all-Asian, etc.) team would happen. The reality is that our president apparently doesn’t think it’s necessary to have much diversity on a team that assesses national security. As a taxpayer, it’s offensive to me to have a national security team that doesn’t even represent the gender diversity on the planet, forget about a more nuanced look on race and culture (than just white men).

      We spend more than $1 TRILLION EVERY YEAR on intelligence and defense, and we have a consistent track record: missed the 9/11 thing, didn’t find any WMDs, took more than a decade to catch up to bin Laden, missed the Arab Spring, still in Afghanistan (building infrastructure in the country that supplies the world with most of its heroin), etc. For spending all that money, it appears to me that we get caught flat-footed just about every time.

      I’ll leave it to you to look up the percentage of Asians in China—which the military and intelligence folks figure to be our greatest military competitor (and anyone can figure is our greatest economic competitor). I’ll also leave it to you to look up the percentage of women on the planet. By the way, I’ll also leave it to you to look up the picture of our president thanking his campaign team—put your sunglasses on first.

      But, hey, it’s looking up. Governor Romney has “binders of women”; maybe he’ll send them to Pennsylvania Avenue. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • Hi – me again. Don’t want to drag this out. I actually agree with you that there is a need for more diversity at the top of the intel/defense communities. Just question whether your choice of words is unecessarily provocative.

        • Luke Visconti

          Thank you for your comments. It’s OK to “drag this out”—it’s important. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Hello Luke – I am big fan of this website and often read and reflect upon the articles. And while i agree that there should be more diversity on that council, i am surprised at the title of your article and surprised at the reaction to the comments on this article. Being a site for diversity and supporting inclusion, i was left feeling uncomfortable with the article’s title. I think that you and the editors of this site can find a better way to state the need for diversity in our nations security council than to say “better put on your sunglasses” because they are all white. I find it offensive – and I am hispanic and female.


    • Luke Visconti

      I understand. Those words (which I wrote) make me uncomfortable too—but the stunning lack of diversity on the national security team makes me far more than just “uncomfortable.” Given that our military spending is greater than the next 16 highest countries added together, we have an obligation above all other countries on the planet to not make mistakes. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I understand about the lack of diversity, but how many minorities would last the constant bombardment, ridicule and scrutiny as other Obama nominees. It seems thatunless you record is squeaky clean, and you have been robotic in your duties and have been mistake free, you shouldn’t even try. Look at what happened to Susan Rice, granted the whole thing might have been a cover, but still, who is willing to have all there dirty laundry exposed for a job? Many qualified candidates may shy from the position based on that alone. I do like the fact that your article created this discussion.

  • Blacks make up less than 15% of the US population, yet Obama’s security council is almost black (susan rice, dept. justice, homeland security, etc. and Obama).

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