DOD Assesses Diversity for Federal Coordination

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)