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Trump's Lack of Diversity is Weakening National Security, Top Dem Argues

President Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Oct. 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – A lack of diversity within the Trump administration is weakening national security and damaging U.S. credibility in the international community, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said today.

Cardin, who serves as ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contrasted racial and gender diversity of the Obama administration with the Trump administration while speaking at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Citing Office of Management and Budget data on mid-level political jobs, Cardin noted that Trump has appointed 88 percent white individuals and 62 percent male. Obama, in comparison, appointed 67 percent white individuals and 47 percent male.

“We’re not doing as well as we should be doing, and we’ve got to be honest about that. Take a look at our numbers,” Cardin said. “Under the Trump administration, I would suggest that we’re moving in the wrong direction, rather than in the right direction, and it starts with promoting U.S. values (on diversity).”

Cardin criticized the president’s comments following riots in Charlottesville (which he described as a low point), the “religious test” he has attempted to implement through his executive order travel ban and the president’s decision to ban transgender service members.

“This president time and time again has called into question the importance of our values to America’s strength, and I could point to many examples, but to me the low point was Charlottesville,” Cardin said.

An August white supremacist rally protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., resulted in three deaths and at least 19 injuries. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly drove a car through a crowd of counter-protesters, and two state troopers died in a helicopter crash while supporting event security.

Following the deadly rally, President Trump said that there was “blame on both sides” of the rally, and that there was violence on “many sides.” He also said there were “some very fine people on both sides.”

“When the president commented about those who were there to carry the message of hate versus those that were there to protest the message of hate, to say that there was some equivalency just blurred America’s clarity that we are a society that will not tolerate hate and one that embraces diversity, and there are other examples that you could use,” Cardin said.

Cardin continued that diversity in the workforce and the government makes for greater production, arguing that a company that uses “all of the talent” in a community will be a better company.

“That’s a fact,” he said. “You’ll do better. You’ll make more money. Stockholders are going to be happier.”

The Maryland lawmaker then reeled off a number of statistics that he finds “unacceptable.” He noted that in the military, minorities represent 40 percent of enlistment but only 22 percent of the officer ranks. In the intelligence community, he said, minorities represent 24 percent of the workforce but only 11 percent of the senior ranks. In the State Department, African-Americans represent 15 percent of the workforce but only 6 percent of Foreign Service.

“So we still have a way to go in our national security agency,” he said. “It’s less diverse than our population. It’s less diverse than the federal workforce, generally. That should be an awakening for all of us, to know that we could be doing better, and we’re not, and we’ve got to take aim at that.”

Cardin is the author of the National Security and Diversity Act of 2017, a piece of legislation that would establish congressional policy for “embracing diversity” and incentivize minority promotions at the State Department. The bill has garnered six Democratic co-sponsors.