Obama orders federal agencies to focus on diversity

President Obama issued an executive order Thursday intended to coordinate a “government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce.”

The order creates a council of deputy agency chiefs and federal workers tasked with developing a government-wide plan to improve diversity in recruitment, training and promotion of federal workers. The plan is due within 90 days, and each federal agency has been tasked with developing its own guidelines within 120 days after that.

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“The federal government has a special opportunity to lead by example,” John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said in a conference call.

The plans are expected to include accountability measures that will ensure agencies prioritize diversity — something Berry hopes will enable this effort to succeed where others have failed. According to the OPM, minorities represented 38.8 percent of the federal workforce last year, while 43.9 percent of the federal workforce was female.

“We will only succeed in our critical mission with a workforce that hails from, represents and is connected to the needs of every American community,” Berry said.

No specific guidelines have been developed yet, and the administration hopes agencies will develop hiring practices tailored to their individual circumstances.

“Theyre going to have to decide what works best for them,” OPM Deputy Director Christine Griffin said. “You need people working for you that reflect America.”

In 2009 and 2010, Obama issued executive orders directing federal agencies to increase the hiring of veterans and people with disabilities.