An internal review of the U.S military is underway, with the goal of improving diversity and “ensuring equal opportunity across the ranks.”
That was the message from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who made the announcement in a video message to the Department of Defense, outlining two new boards he will establish to address diversity and inclusiveness across the department and pledging that “this issue will have my personal time and attention every step of the way. ”
The news comes amid widespread protests following the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Blacks in recent months.
“My goal is to effect an enterprise-wide, organizational and cultural shift,” Esper said, outlining an effort over the next few months to find ways to create lasting change in recruiting, career track selection, retention, assignments, schools, and promotions, “to military justice and everything in between and beyond.”
Esper said that the military has some work to do to confront bias and prejudice within the armed forces.
“We know this bias burdens many of our Service members, and has direct and indirect impact on the experiences of our minority members, the cultural and ethnic diversity of the force, and representation in our officer ranks,” he said. “These things have no place in our military; they have no place in our country.”
Esper said that Thursday’s announcements are just the first step.
“The actions I have identified today are just the first steps, but there is more to be done,” Esper said, noting that the military’s diversity is a source of strength.
He announced a new internal board, the Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion in the Military, that will conduct a six-month plan to “develop concrete, actionable recommendations to increase racial diversity and ensure equal opportunity across all ranks, and especially in the officer corps.”
Esper, who previously served as secretary of the Army, also announced an advisory board called the Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services. These boards will provide updates on action items, along with associated metrics, covered in the quarterly readiness briefings that are presented to Esper by the chain of command, he said.
“Removing bias and prejudice in all its forms and ensuring equal opportunity and respect for all will make us stronger, more capable, and more ready as a joint force,” Esper said. “A diverse and inclusive DoD draws out and builds upon the best in each of us… it brings out the best in America.”