Photo by Rudi Williams
often lack the needed information regarding opportunities for
growth and success in American society," Charles S. Abell
told the audience at DoD's first observance of Hispanic American
Heritage Month outside the Pentagon. Abell is assistant secretary
of defense for force management policy.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
More than 400 military and civilian people from across the
country gathered here today to attend a symposium and luncheon marking
DoD's first observance of Hispanic Heritage Month outside the Pentagon.
Charles S. Abell said this is DoD's first effort to link an educational
event the symposium with a special observance program
the luncheon observance of Hispanic American Heritage Month
and to do the entire thing outside the Pentagon. With nearly
60 percent of its population Hispanic, San Antonio is the nation's
ninth largest populated city with the fifth largest Hispanic population,
which played a role in the city's selection for the event. There
are also five DoD installations in the surrounding area and seven
Hispanic serving institutions.
don't know much about the more than 460-year history of Hispanics
in North America or their contributions to American culture, said
Abell, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy.
"Perhaps that deficiency is due to the fact that the national
Hispanic population is clustered, half in California and Texas and
76 percent in the West or South," Abell told the audience of
the early morning symposium on Improving Hispanic Representation
and Access to Information and Opportunity. "Or, perhaps it's
because the role of Hispanics is rarely or poorly covered in most
textbooks used in our nation's schools."
He said no matter the reason, that's why National Hispanic Heritage
Month and the DoD luncheon observance are important they
raise the information level of all citizens regarding the contributions
of Hispanics to the nation's history and its defense. The observance
also serves to inform Americans about contemporary issues of concern
"Hispanics often lack the needed information regarding opportunities
for growth and success in American society," said the former
attack helicopter pilot. "This is often stereotypically attributed
to linguistic and cultural divides. But we know that Hispanics have
experienced institutional and individual discrimination in education,
employment, health care delivery and financial services."
Hispanics comprise the only ethnic group with less representation
in federal employment than in the total national civilian labor
force. Abell said federal agencies have been trying to correct the
problem for more than 30 years with special emphasis programs such
as 16-point programs, Spanish-speaking programs, programs for persons
of Spanish origin and Hispanic employment programs. They've little
to show for their efforts, he asserted.
"Hispanics were 4 percent of the DoD civilian workforce in
comparison with 6.4 percent in the national civilian labor force
when these (federal efforts) began in 1970," Abell noted. "In
2002, Hispanics comprise 6 percent of the DoD civilian workforce
in comparison to over 12 percent of the national civilian workforce.
"That limited growth of Hispanics in the DoD workforce is part
of why we're here today," he said. "We want to inform
people about civilian and military career opportunities in DoD and
to discuss Hispanic employment issues. We also want to review and
develop strategies for resolving those issues and overcoming barriers
to employment and to celebrate the past and current contributions
of Hispanics woven into our nation's fabric."
During an interview beforehand, Abell pointed out that DoD has observed
Hispanic American Heritage Month for many years, but in the Pentagon.
"This year, we wanted to bring the Pentagon to the people,"
He said he hopes the observance in years ahead will be taken to
other cities around the country. "The Pentagon is hard to get
into, especially after Sept. 11, and we can't share our message,
vision and our partnership very easily from inside the Pentagon,
so we want to come out to where the people are," Abell said.
"We want to send a message to Hispanics that says we're hiring,"
he said. "So we want to make sure the Hispanic folks understand
that we're here and have opportunities to offer, and we really want
them to come join us. We also want to be the civilian employer of
choice for those interested in great opportunities and great development."
For young Hispanics who are contemplating military service, Abell
said, "The military is a great opportunity for young men and
women. We've got good pay, good allowances, good educational benefits
and will instill great values and return these young men and women
to their communities better citizens."