U.S. Department of Defense

09/24/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/24/2020 12:44

Top Leaders Discuss Diversity, Inclusion With Military Members, Families

Top Leaders Discuss Diversity, Inclusion With Military Members, Families

Sept. 24, 2020 | BYDavid Vergun, DOD News

Defense Department leaders addressed the DOD's efforts at improving diversity and inclusion during a virtual global town hall meeting today.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón "CZ" Colón-López spoke during a question-and-answer session with department personnel and their families.

Esper said that in June, he issued a memorandum directing a three-pronged approach to the initiative against discrimination, prejudice and bias in all ranks of the armed forces.

Each of the efforts, he said, aimed to identify actions the department can take within policies, programs and processes to improve diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity for all service members:

  • A short-term ''sprint'' to identify immediate actions, four of which have been implemented with five pending;
  • A mid-term DOD Board on Diversity and Inclusion, which includes members of all ethnicities and ranks to ensure ownership throughout the force; and,
  • A long-term, independent Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Forces, to be stood up by Dec. 1.

Esper said good progress is being made on all three initiatives.

Regarding diversity and inclusion, Milley said: "We have challenges to be sure, but the military has been and remains the largest meritocracy in the world. We promote, we advance and we select based on your knowledge, your skills, your attributes and the content of your character.

"We are stronger together," he continued. "Diversity builds a better team and readiness."

Colón-López said the department remains committed to hearing the voice of every service member and their families, whether it is suggestions on COVID-19 policies or diversity and inclusion.

Regarding diversity and inclusion, Colón-López said the department has already received more than 70,000 comments from service members since last month.

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  • The SEAC noted that the department is coordinating policies on diversity and inclusion, as well as COVID-19, across the services. The DOD has already evaluated suggestions and has adopted 34 policy recommendations from the services and has looked at best practices from industry and academia.

On other topics, the secretary addressed questions relating to the National Defense Strategy and the department's efforts at improving readiness, modernization, reform, and partnerships in the face of global threats.

Esper and the other leaders also mentioned the important role families play in readiness and the department's efforts to support them.

Milley said the department is working with other organizations to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. "I fully expect that we're going to have a successful, safe and effective vaccine in the near term, sometime in the fall or near the end of the year."

DOD Wants Voices Heard

The department is crowdsourcing to find better ways to promote diversity and inclusion. Esper said he asked for the process as part of his Board on Diversity and Inclusion. The board - chaired by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett - wants input from service members and DOD civilians, and crowdsourcing is one tool they will use.

Crowdsourcing is the practice of using the internet as a source of information and solutions. Service members and DOD civilians can participate through Oct. 16.

"The secretary wants to hear from all of our service members about what the DOD can do to improve diversity and inclusion," said Marine Corps Maj. Sharon A. Sisbarro, a member of the board's support office, in an earlier statement.

The board members didn't want to do yet another survey, Sisbarro said. "We adopted a kind of crowdsourcing-like model, where we just said, 'Tell us what we need to do,'" she added.

The new effort recognizes that the old ways of doing things have taken the department as far as it can go, the major explained, and new ideas are needed to continue the process of inclusion and to promote diversity in the ranks.

This is an effort to create a better culture within the department, Sisbarro said. The board will look at a range of issues, from grooming standards to first-person experience sharing about the reality of life as a minority, she explained.

Some Fortune 500 companies use crowdsourcing to foster innovation and to speed adoption of ideas, Sisbarro noted, and this is the first effort on the DOD level.

Thoughts and suggestions can be posted anonymously (or not) here: