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DoD Striving to Increase Hispanics in Senior Level Positions

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 1999 – Hispanics may be the fastest growing ethnic group in the country, but this growth is not yet reflected in the upper levels of DoD where they occupy relatively few senior civilian and military positions. Actions to fix this leadership disparity were addressed by Francis Rush, the featured speaker at DoD's Sept 29 Hispanic Heritage Month program in the Pentagon.

Rush, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for force management and policy, told the audience that by 2010, Hispanics will be the second largest race/ethnic group in the nation. He said as their numbers soar, "their aspirations and ambitions will become an increasingly larger part of our national agenda and Hispanic contributions to national defense will grow as well."

Rush said that while DoD has been successful in increasing the overall percentage of Hispanics in its workforce, this success has not carried into the higher ranks. "Representation in the senior civilian and military grades is not where we would want it to be," he acknowledged.

Efforts are under way in DoD and the Office of Personnel Management to remedy the situation, Rush said. "OPM [Office of Personnel Management] has a nine-point plan for reversing Hispanic underrepresentation for federal service and improving their opportunities for management and senior executive positions," he said. A DoD action agenda for civilian equal employment opportunity progress program focuses on increasing the number of minorities and women in positions at grades GS-13 and above, he said.

On the military side, DoD is working to increase the number of Hispanic men and women in the officer corps of all the services. "Our accession policy team has contracted with an experienced research organization to review this matter and help us map our strategy," Rush said.

During his remarks, Rush also spoke of the heroism and devotion to country of Americans of Hispanic descent. He pointed to the 100-year history of the Puerto Rican National Guard's 65th Infantry Regiment as an example of courage and patriotism.

"The soldiers of the 65th proved their heroism on the battlefield over and over," he said. He said in Korea, the regiment suffered 3,540 casualties, including 743 soldiers killed in action.

Members of the 65th returned from Korea with eight Distinguished Service Crosses, the nation's second highest decoration for valor; 134 Silver Stars, the third highest; 562 Bronze Stars and 1,014 Purple Hearts. The regiment also earned eight Presidential and Meritorious Unit Citations. Creation of the 65th was approved by Congress on March 2, 1899, as a native Puerto Rican battalion composed of four companies, each with an enlisted strength of 100 men.

Rush emphasized the importance of ethnic observances in highlighting the contributions made by all Americans to the development and defense of the nation. He said that ethnic observances, Women's History Month, and National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month "help us understand how the strength of our nation, our federal workplace and the armed forces, stem in so many ways from their diversity."

Visit DoD's Hispanic Heritage web site at www.defenselink.mil/specials/hispanic2003

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