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DoD Provides Equitable Work Environment, Official Tells NAACP

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2006 – Defense Department policies and programs allow all its military and civilian members to work and serve in an environment of fairness, equity, dignity and respect, a top defense official said during remarks at the NAACP's 31st annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner last night.

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Clarence A. Johnson, principal director of the Defense Department's Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, asks the audience at the NAACP's 31st Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner to spread the word to young people about military and civilian job opportunities in DoD. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Clarence A. Johnson, principal director of the department's Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, said DoD joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of leaders and organizations in pursuit of common objectives.

"Our nation's military exists to assure our freedom and democracy and when threatened, to defeat the enemies of our freedoms," said Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel. "At the centerpiece of our military are the uniformed men and women of the services and the DoD civilians. Combined, they make America's military -- the most powerful and effective force in the world -- unequalled on the battlefield."

Noting that while the military is smaller than in the past, Johnson said "it's the most lethal and disciplined force this nation has ever fielded. Despite the reduction of the force, however, the presence of women and minorities has increased."

He said the honorees for this year's NAACP awards reflect a positive symptom of the strength of diversity of the Defense Department. "Presently, your all-volunteer military force is composed of 15 percent women and 36 percent minorities, of which about 18 percent are African Americans," Johnson said.

"African-Americans serve with distinction, making up 9 percent of the officer corps and 20 percent of enlisted ranks," he noted. "In the past 10 years, the representation of African-Americans in senior enlisted and commissioned officer ranks has increased."

Ten years ago, African Americans composed 23 percent of the senior enlisted ranks - today, that number is 26 percent. The number of field grade officers has also increased, from 6 percent to 8 percent, and in the flag and general officer grades, the representation has doubled, from 3 to 6 percent, Johnson said.

The size of the DoD civilian work force has decreased over the last decade, but the representation of minorities, women and persons with targeted disabilities has increased, the retired colonel said.

"African-American representation in overall DoD has increased to more than 15 percent of DoD's civilian force, making gains in white-collar occupations, and particularly in the GS-13, GS-14 and GS-15 grades," he noted.

Paraphrasing a famous commercial of the past, Johnson said "We've come a long way, baby," but he followed that with a paraphrase of poet Robert Frost: "We have yet miles to go before we sleep."

"We'd certainly like to see more diversity and better representation of all minorities in our senior civilian and military grades," he said. "We also would like to see more minorities and women in some of the key occupations that have a better prospect of leading to the senior ranks and grades.

"You can help," Johnson told people in the audience who he called "the key influencers of our society - the leaders to whom others look for advice and guidance."

He called on mentors in the audience to help increase African-American representation in DoD by telling young people about the opportunities and value of service to the nation, either in the military ranks or as civil servants.

"The military affords our young people the opportunity to gain responsibility fast and develop leadership skills that can't be obtained anywhere else - from leading a platoon in battle to flying an aircraft off the deck of an aircraft carrier in high seas to developing departmental policy," Johnson said.

Johnson asked the audience to remember that every day, 1.4 million active soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and 1.3 million reservists voluntarily put their lives at risk to safeguard America's freedoms and its way of life.

He pointed out that at any given moment, American troops are flying combat missions or conducting combat patrols in Southwest Asia, hunting terrorists in the caves of Afghanistan and providing security and humanitarian and civil affairs support around the world.

They're also standing guard over the nation's interests around the world, maintaining ships and submarines across the vast reaches of the oceans. Plus, Johnson noted, "They're attending college, learning new skills, developing into leaders of character who will lead in the service or as citizens."

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