The Pentagon's secret eavesdropping agency is years behind other federal agencies in hiring women and minorities and does a poor job handling complaints of discrimination, the government said Wednesday.
Pentagon Inspector General Derek Vander Schaaf, in a 76-page report to Congress, said the National Security Agency has failed to increase its ranks of women and minorities significantly in the last five years.
The agency "has not identified systemic problems and barriers faced by women and minorities in recruitment, hiring, promotion or career development," Vander Schaaf reported. The underrepresentation of women and minorities, he wrote, "will, in all probability, require years to correct."
The NSA, based at Ft. Meade, Md., is even more secretive than the CIA. It uses the most sophisticated technology to eavesdrop on foreign governments and military forces. Even the number of employees who work there is considered classified, although it has been reported at about 22,000.
Minorities account for 11.6% of the NSA work force, compared with about 27% of the federal work force, according to 1993 statistics. The report found that minority representation at the NSA barely increased between 1989 and 1993, to 11.6% from 11%.
The agency's own statistics show that 2.45% of employees at the highest pay grades are black, compared with 4.8% for the government as a whole.
Women, who make up 45.7% of the federal work force, accounted for 36.3% of NSA workers in 1993, down from 38.6% in 1992.
Still, the report found that the proportion of women and minorities among those hired last year rose to 20.7% from 13.6% in 1992.
Top NSA officials not only agreed with the critical findings, but also set up a new equal employment opportunity plan to address its hiring and promotion problems.
Vice Adm. John M. McConnell, who has directed the agency since early 1992, told the House Intelligence Committee last fall that the NSA was in stiff competition with other agencies and industry for qualified minorities.
But senior managers said the "major barrier affecting job opportunities for women and minorities is the attitude of the representatives who interview and select employees," the report said.
The report found that NSA recruiters fell back on stereotypes to explain the low hiring levels of Latinos, for example.
"We were told it is a cultural problem--that Hispanics are very close to their families and do not want to move away from them," the report noted. "In addition, they told us Hispanics do not complete and return the security forms because they have relatives who are illegal aliens or who live outside the United States."