As the Department of Defense commemorates International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we are reflecting on progress we have made towards gender equity and equality at home and abroad, and celebrating the invaluable expertise of women throughout DoD. In 2021, the Department saw the first woman leader confirmed by Congress as Deputy Secretary of Defense. We are making progress in empowering women leaders and a range of initiatives to enhance opportunities for women and minorities across the department—all of which are vital to enhancing U.S. national security.
“Around the world, our Allies, partners and major international organizations are celebrating the advancements gender parity brings to the world,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks. “These advancements support better governance and a more stable and less turbulent world. Our work on women, peace, and security is critical not just for U.S. national security, but equally importantly, for the safety, equality, and opportunity of women and girls around the world. We are proud to join the international community in recognizing the achievements of women around the world.”
Over the last year, the Department:
- Appointed two women as combatant commanders: Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost took command of U.S. Transportation Command and Army General Laura Richardson took command of U.S. Southern Command in October 2021. They join retired Air Force General Lori Robinson, who commanded U.S. Northern Command, as Department pioneers.
- Released the roadmap for implementation of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC): Secretary Austin established the IRC in early 2021 to counter the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military across, with focus across four lines of effort -- accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support. The Department is now implementing all 82 of the IRC’s recommendations to ensure that all service members are able to serve in environments of dignity and respect.
- Expanded Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Programming: DoD WPS programs work to ensure that the DoD exemplifies a diverse organization with women’s meaningful participation across the Joint Force, advance opportunities for women in partner nation security sectors, and protect women and girls during conflict and crisis. Notably, the DoD leveraged its workforce of trained Gender Advisors (GENADs) to support the relocation and resettlement of Afghan evacuees during Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) – the first time that the Department has ever deployed this capability during an operation.
“Alongside our partners, the Department of Defense is working to develop an inclusive, holistic approach towards the security challenges of today and tomorrow. Incorporating diverse gender perspectives is key in this effort, from mitigating the unintended consequences of military action and protecting civilians, to addressing transnational security challenges that impact all of us such as climate change and global pandemics,” said Michelle Strucke, DASD for Global Partnerships in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. “I am excited to recognize the outstanding contributions women have made to the Department, to highlight men who welcome and accelerate these changes, and I look forward to deepening this important work alongside our Allies and partners.”
“One of our primary objectives in the Department is to better enable meaningful participation of women across the ranks of our Joint Force. Our national defense is stronger when we fully leverage the skills and capabilities of all our people to the maximum extent possible. That’s why when women in our Armed Forces can succeed, then our military is more likely to succeed, too,” said Beth Foster, Executive Director of Force Resiliency in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
“This past year, we have seen firsthand how applying Women, Peace, and Security principles to efforts such as Operation Allies Welcome enhances our military capabilities and better accounts for the safety and security of an entire affected population,” responded Brigadier General Rebecca Sonkiss, Deputy Director for Counter Threats and International Cooperation in the Joint Staff J5. “Integrating a gender perspective to inform our military strategy, plans, and operations is crucial to building a more resilient Joint Force, capable of identifying and addressing strategic and operational blind spots.”