Senior Official: Disabled Employees Critical to DOD Mission
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2013 A senior military official has praised the work of the Defense Department’s disabled employees as well as the branches that hire them, calling the efforts vital to the department’s workforce.
”Your support of our employees with disabilities and our wounded, ill and injured soldiers is critical to inclusion and full participation and equal opportunity, and I thank you for taking those responsibilities seriously,” Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, military deputy to the undersecretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness told today’s 33rd annual Department of Defense Disability Awards ceremony at the Pentagon.
In a written message for the event, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted that President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the government’s obligation to be a model employer of individuals with disabilities.
“Our department supports this effort in many ways,” Hagel said, “including our continual commitment to wounded warriors and our long-standing goal that people with targeted disabilities make up at least 2 percent of our civilian workforce.”
DOD always has relied on the abilities of its employees -- in and out of uniform -- to accomplish its mission, he added.
“Integrating people with disabilities not only makes for a diverse and inclusive workforce; it also provides critical problem-solving abilities, skills and perspectives that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Hagel wrote. “This ultimately makes us more effective at defending our nation.”
“I sincerely appreciate this year’s theme … ‘We are equal to the task,’ and in that regard, I believe diversity is strength of our nation and the department. And we should never lose sight of the importance of that responsibility,” Linnington said.
This year’s theme also highlights an important point, he added: Individuals with disabilities make organizations stronger and a person’s disability is not a boundary to the talent he or she possesses.
Those with disabilities are vital to the DOD workforce, and diversity has been part of the country’s history since the nation was founded, Linnington said.
“The diverse backgrounds and experiences of our people give us a strategic advantage in achieving mission success and achieving our high standard of readiness,” he said.
“As the largest federal employer, many people expect DOD to lead the way in hiring individuals with disabilities, including our nation’s veterans,” Linnington added. “And I think that expectation is well-founded … We are committed to rising to the challenge,” he said.
Linnington honored the four DOD components with the 2013 Secretary of Defense Awards for Achievements in Employment of Individuals with Disabilities:
-- Best Military Department: Department of the Air Force, presented to Eric Fanning, acting secretary;
-- Best Mid-Sized Component: Defense Logistics Agency, presented to Navy Vice Adm. Mark D. Hartnitchek, director;
-- Best Small-Sized Component: Defense Security Service, presented to Stanley L. Sims, director; and
-- Best Intelligence Component: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, presented to Letitia A. Long, director.