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Spokesman Details DOD Progress in Addressing Diversity, Inclusion

July 21, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper is committed to diversity and inclusion and has directed a comprehensive review to identify and develop options for addressing shortcomings, a senior Defense Department official said.

Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, briefed reporters at the Pentagon today on the progress that is being made in the department to address issues of diversity and inclusion, and he also addressed the National Defense Strategy and other topics.

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Last week, the Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion in the Military held its first meeting to conduct a comprehensive six-month study and to develop concrete, actionable recommendations to foster equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion among all ranks, Hoffman said.

Efforts include obtaining and analyzing data on prejudice and bias within the force, developing educational requirements to educate service members on the signs and effects of unconscious bias, reviewing the effectiveness of military service equal opportunity offices and much more, he said.

Underscoring all of the work that is being done is the fact that the secretary has been meeting with service members to discuss diversity and inclusion throughout the force and will continue to do so, Hoffman told reporters.

A man standing at a lectern speaks.
Hoffman Conference
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, takes questions from reporters at the Pentagon, July 21, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200721-D-BN624-003

He also paid tribute to civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who died July 17, noting that Lewis fought for inclusion during his lifetime. "His work remains an inspiration and part of the foundation in our collective fight for racial justice and equality," Hoffman said.

The Pentagon spokesman also addressed other topics, including DOD's global strategy. The department is continually reviewing its global force posture, particularly with regard to China and Russia, as outlined in the National Defense Strategy, he said.

Force levels at every combatant command are being reviewed, and discussions take place regularly with allies and partners, he said, adding that before any changes are made, discussions among DOD officials, Congress and the administration will take place to ensure bipartisan support.

A man standing at a lectern takes questions from members of a socially distanced audience.
Reporter Questions
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, takes questions from reporters at the Pentagon, July 21, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200721-D-BN624-001

An important tool the department employs to strengthen its global posture is the practice of rotational forces, he said. That strategy provides U.S. forces the opportunity to train with a variety of allies and partners while adding an element of unpredictability as to when and where those forces are sent, posing a dilemma for adversaries, he explained.

Hoffman said nations in Southeast Asia are particularly receptive to training with U.S. forces, as China has been taking "extreme and excessive maritime claims," particularly in the South China Sea.

Still, Hoffman said, DOD leaders want to strengthen military-to-military relationships with Russia and China, particularly to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations. He added that Esper plans to travel to China later this year.