Symposium Seeks Minorities for Defense Department
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Feb. 20, 2004 Defense Department officials tried to put DoD's best foot forward in attracting minority students to seek careers in the department at Florida A&M University here Feb. 18-19.
DoD held a career exposition Feb. 18 for middle school, high school and college students to see presentations and visit exhibits set up by the military academies, ROTC programs and civilian internship programs. Feb. 19 featured a symposium, during which DoD officials discussed critical minority representation issues in ROTC and internship programs, as well as long-term concerns, with presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-education leaders.
Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told a Black History luncheon audience at the event that DoD has come a long way in providing opportunities for minorities.
"Fifty years ago, a program of this nature and magnitude would not have been held," Abell told the gathering. "Our nation was tragically divided by Jim Crow laws and segregation policies. During World War II, however, the military learned that segregation was unnecessarily divisive and crippled morale and readiness, as well as being inherently unequal and needlessly expensive."
Abell said the experience helped pave the way for President Harry S. Truman to issue an executive order in 1948 calling for equality of treatment and opportunity for the armed forces.
"Implementation of that order not only resulted in the integration of the military services, it integrated all military support facilities as well," Abell noted. Consequently, schools on military installations for military family members were integrated in 1952, two years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, mandated public school integration.
Even though the full promise of that historic decision hasn't been realized, Abell said, the program at FAMU "builds one more bridge toward achievement of our mutual goal: equal opportunity, justice and mutual respect for all."
The event included an extensive technical assistance workshop for HBCU administrators and program managers. The workshop covered how to access opportunities for business with DoD in contracts and grants, science and technology, research and development and placement of student interns and faculty fellows. The administrators and managers also learned about opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses to work with DoD.