The New DOD Diversity and Inclusion Program Shows Promise


On June 18th, Secretary Esper announced a three-part initiative to accelerate diversity and inclusion within the Defense Department. Indeed, over the past two decades, there have been notable improvements in gender and racial diversity among enlisted personnel, which is a pipeline to leadership. However, minorities are still underrepresented in the officer corps, according to a CRS report. The DOD produced a diversity and inclusion plan in 2012, but the RAND Corporation found that the strategy lacked both a robust communication strategy and prioritization structure for its initiatives. The DOD’s efforts to stand up an advisory Board and Committee on Diversity and Inclusion can be an excellent opportunity to ensure that everybody, including minorities and women, in the uniformed and civilian workforce are being treated fairly and have an equal opportunity to advance within the Department.

The first part of the initiative is to create a new “Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion.” The Board will have six months to develop recommendations that promote diversity and ensure that all DOD employees are treated equally during promotions and the hiring process. Furthermore, the Board will receive resources that will allow for some independence to ensure impartiality and fairness in its recommendations. Since the Board reports directly to SECDEF, this presents the perfect opportunity for the proposals to be implemented directly from the top instead of having to endure the slow process of the bottom-up approach.

Next, the external “Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services” will be the group tasked with developing guidelines that put the recommendations into action. The Committee will develop policies and guidance that reflect American and department-wide values. Through the Committee’s determination, they may be able to improve diversity within the officer corps, decrease sexual harassment, and reduce violence.

Lastly, the initiative involves input from the Department itself. Getting information from the uniformed and civilian workforce is incredibly valuable. In recent developments, GAO reports found that minority service members were more likely to be investigated by commanders and court-martialed. New insights from minority servicemembers and DOD personnel will reveal forgotten perspectives and will shed light on the dangers of unconscious bias and other discriminatory methods. Therefore, this last part of the initiative shows its potential in developing new policies that protect minorities and their rights.

The DOD’s crackdown against hatred, sexual violence, and bigotry within its ranks is laudable and will usher in some long-needed changes. And, most importantly, this is an essential step for the DOD to accomplish its overarching mission in protecting the Nation.

Topics: Defense Department

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