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DOD Takes Action to Support Diversity, Inclusion

July 17, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The top leaders of the Defense Department emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion and mentioned steps that the department is taking to address these issues.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón "CZ" Colón-López spoke about that topic and answered questions today from service members at a virtual town hall meeting at the Pentagon.

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"We in the military are not immune from discrimination, bias and prejudice," Esper said.

To address those challenges, he said the department is taking three initiatives:

1
A memo on those topics has been sent to leadership throughout the force asking for input. That input will be carefully examined 30 to 60 days from now, he said.
2
DOD has established a Defense Board for Diversity and Inclusion, he said, noting that its first meeting was July 15. By December, that board will report to the secretary on its findings and recommendations to address racism, bias and prejudice in the military.
3
DOD has established a permanent Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, he said, mentioning that it is in the process of being stood up now and will contain experts on the subject.
Esper said that everything is under review and being considered, including various ways to eliminate bias in promotion boards. That may include getting rid of photos and other things that might result in an unconscious bias toward race, gender or ethnicity.

Milley said everyone in the military took an oath to defend the Constitution. That oath, he said, is the idea that every American, no matter the gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, nation of origin or anything is equal.

"What matters is we're united as Americans. In the Constitution, all men and women are created free and equal. Those of us in uniform, we are dedicated to that principle and are willing to die for it. So if we're willing to die for it, we ought to be willing to live for it," he said.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper; Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón “CZ” Colón-López sit at a table.
Leader Trio
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper; Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón “CZ” Colón-López hold a virtual global town hall to answer questions from service members, Defense Department civilians and family members at the Pentagon, July 17, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 200717-D-XI929-2007Y

Colón-López said he was told about limitations in the military due to his own minority status and that he had to work extra hard to prove people wrong.

Everyone should have the same opportunity to excel, he said, based on character, ability and proficiency.

It is up to everyone, particularly those in the chain of command, to listen to service members' concerns and ideas regarding diversity and inclusion, he said.