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More Hispanics Needed in Senior DoD Civilian Jobs

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2000 – DoD officials recently established an advisory group that will explore ways to place more Hispanic Americans in DoD military and civilian jobs, especially at the upper management level.

“I am pleased to announce the creation of an informal DoD Senior Advisory Council on Hispanic Issues. The council is designed to provide another avenue to assist DoD to recruit, develop, and retain qualified Hispanic civilian employees and military members,” said Victor Vasquez Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy Sept. 26 at the annual Hispanic Heritage observance at the Pentagon.

Vasquez noted Hispanics remain underrepresented in DoD when their numbers are compared to national civilian labor force statistics. The advisory council, he said, will help to rectify that imbalance.

“I consider the advisory council as a major milestone in that it will empower the Hispanic executives within the Department of Defense -- by executives I mean at least at the senior executive service level -- to begin to assume responsibility and accountability on building a strategy in response to DoD’s work force needs for the future,” Vasquez said.

Senior-leader interest in increasing Hispanic participation within DoD is nothing new. Alphonso Maldon Jr., assistant secretary of defense for force management policy distributed a Feb. 28 memorandum DoD-wide that implemented employment initiatives to improve job opportunities for Hispanics within DoD’s civilian and military work force.

“The initiatives target employment opportunities through a renewed commitment to the recruitment, development and retention of qualified Hispanic personnel through an increased dedication to the Hispanic Employment Program,” Maldon stated in the memo.

“Hispanics still remain the only underrepresented racial or ethnic group in the federal work force,” Maldon continued. “We strongly encourage you to work with us to aggressively address the under-representation of Hispanics in the DoD civilian work force.”

Although Hispanic Americans make up about 12 percent of the total U.S. population, they constitute about 5.7 percent of the federal civilian work force and about 6 percent of DoD’s civilian work force, according to officials.

The military services have stepped up efforts to recruit more Hispanics and provide opportunities for advancement, officials said. These efforts, they said, have increased the numbers of Hispanics in the military and promoted diversity within the force.

In fact, all the uniformed services have increased Hispanic American representation in recent years, with the Air Force doubling the percentage of Hispanics within its ranks during the last eight years, officials said. In the Navy, 15.5 percent of sailors are Hispanic Americans. In the Marine Corps it’s 14.9 percent. The Army is 10.9 percent Hispanic-American and the Air Force is 7.4 percent.

Maldon noted in his memo that more Hispanic-American applicants are needed to fill senior civilian managerial positions, a situation heavily supported by statistics.

Out of 1,211 Senior Executive Service billets within DoD, Hispanic Americans hold just 14, officials said. Of the 72,023 people DoD-wide who hold GS-13 through GS-15 jobs -- primarily senior management-level positions -- only 2,114 are Hispanics. SES civilian executives serve in general- officer-level managerial positions.

William E. Leftwich III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for equal opportunity, pointed to the importance of Maldon’s Hispanic Employment Initiatives. “These initiatives are precedent-setting in that they focus specifically on Hispanics/Latinos. The Department of Defense is working this issue very aggressively. … We’re about inclusion and progress,” Leftwich said. “This is an area that we have to do better in. … There are challenges, but my colleagues have their sleeves rolled up and are working this issue.”

As part of Maldon’s initiatives, DoD officials said they are seeking senior-level military and civilian volunteers to serve on an informal DoD Senior Advisory Council on Hispanic Issues. Such an advisory body, consisting of five civilians, GS-14 or above, and five military, lieutenant colonel/commander or above, would be of great benefit in promoting Hispanic employment at DoD, Leftwich said.

“I welcome groups that can assist in being a supportive arm to the things that we have to do. There are policies people need to know about -- the advisory council can help to communicate that,” he said. “There are communities that we need to reach out to in a better manner. They can help to facilitate that. There are focus groups … that can help gather information … and then provide it to us.

“The more information you have and the quality of that information helps us to focus policies, programs and initiatives even better,” Leftwich added.

Vasquez’ co-chair on the advisory panel is Ana Maria Salazar, deputy assistant secretary of defense for drug enforcement policy and support. The highest-ranking Hispanic woman in DoD, Salazar was named one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the October issue of "Hispanic Business" magazine.

Yet, said Salazar assistant Alex Rodriguez, more Hispanic civilians must enter federal service “to establish a robust pipeline,” especially within DoD, if more are to rise to top positions. The advisory council, he added, will help DoD to meet those goals.

“You’re talking about a segment of the U.S. population that is growing in size, compared to every other group,” Rodriguez said. “So, deeper inclusion today by that group into the American dream is critical.

“A DoD Senior Advisory Council on Hispanic Issues will provide a platform for members to assist the secretary of defense and everyone down the chain-of-command in moving toward a more inclusive environment,” he concluded.

For more information or to apply for a seat on the DoD Senior Advisory Council on Hispanic Issues, contact Vasquez at vasquezv@pr.osd.mil or Salazar at salazara@mail.policy.osd.mil.

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