News   Defense News

Troops Tell Esper that DOD Should Not Lose Focus on Diversity, Inclusion

Oct. 30, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Service members tell Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper that they do not want the Defense Department to lose focus on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the force.

The secretary met with service members during a visit to Bahrain. Esper has held 24 of these talks all over the world.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks with service members on board a ship.
Ship Tour
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper tours the avenger class minesweeper USS Devastator, docked at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Oct. 28, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 201028-D-BN624-0069A

The feedback he is getting is consistent. "One concern that was expressed — and I share the same concern — is that we lose focus," Esper said during a meeting with reporters traveling with him. "The good news is: It's not different [from] my previous 23 sessions. The bad news is: It's not different [from] the previous 23 sessions. In other words, there's a constant concern out there."

The secretary said everywhere he goes, "there's this sense that there is not overt racism in the military, but there is unwitting bias."

Those are the things they are looking for ways to rid the military of, he added. Losing focus worries the secretary as well. He does not want diversity and inclusion to become just another PowerPoint lecture that service members have to endure. "So, that's a problem that I want to make sure we avoid, which is why I set up the three initiatives I did in the summer: short-, medium- and long-term efforts."

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper stands with a group of service members.
Group Photo
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper visits with troops stationed at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Oct. 28, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 201028-D-BN624-0610

The short-term efforts were immediate things Esper could put in place. "That's done, we've accomplished several things like we took photographs out of promotion boards," he said. 

The second part will come from the report of the Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion that is due out next month.

"Then the long-term, the thing that will sustain the focus will be the Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Services," he said. This will be similar to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services and should sustain and keep the focus on the diversity and inclusion effort.