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DoD Sets Five-Year Goal to Hire 32,000 People with Disabilities

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2002 – Employment and retention of individuals with disabilities is a top priority in the Department of Defense. And DoD wants them to make their own decisions, fulfill their own goals and be rewarded and advanced on an equal footing with their nondisabled peers, said Ginger Groeber, deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy.

Groeber told more than 400 attendees at the 22nd annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony in Bethesda, Md., what DoD is doing with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's initiative to hire 32,000 employees who are qualified disability candidates.

"Nothing is more important to the secretary of defense than the recruitment and retention of highly qualified and capable individuals who are willing to go the extra mile for their country," Groeber told the audience after they witnessed awards presentations to 16 outstanding DoD employees with disabilities.

She said President Bush signed an executive order on July 26, 2000, directing the federal government to hire 100,000 employees with disabilities over the next five years. DoD quickly pledged to hire 32,000 candidates with qualified disabilities before September 2005, she noted.

Groeber said the secretary further emphasized DoD's pledge by issuing a memorandum in October 2000 to the secretaries of the military departments and directors of defense agencies fully supporting the president's initiative. Rumsfeld asked them "to redouble your efforts to eliminate barriers in hiring and advancement of employees with qualified disabilities and to increase their opportunities for employment and advancement."

The department took the secretary's request to heart and divided the five-year goal of 32,000 new hires by fiscal year, Groeber said. "In fiscal 2001 our goal was 4,763 and 5,801 for fiscal 2002 for a grand total of 10,564," she said. "Our actual hiring level was 11,963 new employees who have qualified disabilities. This exceeds the two-year goal by almost 1,400 additional employees. We fully expect the same success rate for the following fiscal years, as we look this year to hire over 6,600 employees with qualified disabilities."

She said such success doesn't happen by "sitting back and waiting for people to come to us." DoD human resources and equal employment opportunity specialists have been committed to this goal and work together to aggressively seek those candidates who would like to come to work for the Department of Defense."

At the beginning of the ceremony, Judy Gilliom, manager of the DoD program for people with disabilities, said, "Inclusion and empowerment are the things that make diversity great. People with disabilities are now part of the mainstream. We belong. Few would argue with that statement today, but few would have understood it 32 years ago, when I broke my neck and very suddenly joined this community of people with disabilities."

Gilliom told the audience that, since her accident, many things have changed. "Opportunities are better today for people with disabilities to be employed at the Department of Defense than they have ever been before," she noted.

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