WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2011 — The Defense Department is assessing its diversity programs as part of a presidential order to coordinate efforts across the federal government, Pentagon officials said.
Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, released a statement that said the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity is working closely with the services to develop a strategic plan for diversity across the total force.
Stanley’s announcement follows an Aug. 18 executive order by President Barack Obama calling for a coordinated, governmentwide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workplace. As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government has a “special obligation to lead by example,” Obama said.
The president’s order notes that numerous executive orders and programs are in place, but says the government “must seek to consolidate compliance efforts.” Departments and agencies are directed to develop “a more comprehensive, integrated and strategic focus” on diversity.
Stanley said the Pentagon’s plan will identify goals and objectives for improving diversity within the department and establish a roadmap to help DOD leverage diversity and improve mission readiness.
“Diversity is the tapestry and the strength of our great nation,” Stanley continued, “and we are ready to take the next steps to accomplish the president’s challenge.”
Navy Capt. Ken Barrett, acting deputy director of DOD’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, said the Defense Department is a leader in diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“We look at all the different traits and attributes everybody brings in,” Barrett said in an Aug. 26 interview with American Forces Press Service. “It’s not just about race and ethnicity. You can look at language skills, regional expertise, and cultural expertise — everything that puts us at a readiness standpoint to accomplish our missions.”
The department has been an example to other employers both in the public and private sectors, Barrett said, but “there always are challenges.” One, he said, is for the department to expand its recruiting and hiring to enhance diversity.
“We do really well at the entry levels,” Barrett said. But, he added, like other large employers, DOD sometimes finds it challenging to keep its upper ranks diverse.
“Diversity is our strength, it’s a strategic imperative for us, and it’s a readiness issue,” Barrett said. “How do we leverage the diversity and talent we have in our workforce to get to that next great innovation? That’s really what the strategic concept in the executive order gets to.
“How do you make it be part of what you do every day in the entire Department of Defense?” he said. “It’s important to look at all the things we’ve done previously and determine what we can leverage now.” The Office of Personnel Management has 90 days from the date of the order to release a plan, and DOD and the rest of government has 120 days after that to release their reports.
Among the department’s best practices, Barrett said, is having a consistent message on the value of diversity, leadership engagement, and accountability.
It’s also important, he said, to have employment metrics that apply to different skill groups, for example, aviators and medical personnel.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)