Milley: Diversity ‘Fundamental’ to Joint Force

Milley: Diversity ‘Fundamental’ to Joint Force

Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Ashley Breland

The military’s diversity and inclusion efforts are not just for “diversity’s sake,” but are critical to the readiness and capability of the joint force, the military’s top general said. 

“It’s diversity to improve the system, improve the military, improve our problem-solving capabilities and improve our warfighting readiness in order to protect and defend the Constitution,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Sept. 24 during a virtual town hall.

“That’s why it’s so important, so fundamental, that we have this as one of our elements as we move forward to continue to develop the joint force,” he said. 

The Pentagon is taking a multilayered approach to its efforts to fight discrimination, prejudice and bias across the force, implementing short-, mid- and long-term efforts to look at policies, programs and processes that can improve diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity.

The mid-term DoD Board on Diversity and Inclusion is underway and making good progress, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during the town hall. 

The Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Forces, an external body designed to provide long-term and sustainable guidance to DoD leadership, is on track to be stood up by Dec. 1, Esper said.

“It'll be an independent board, and it will really be the long-term sustaining effort that will ensure that this is not a short-term item for the department and we move on to something else,” Esper said of the advisory committee.

The committee, he said, will be much like the longstanding Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, which was created in 1951 and provides DoD with advice and policy recommendations related to military service by women.

In the short-term, official photos have been removed from promotion and selection boards to prevent conscious and unconscious bias—one of the first “quick-action” items to be implemented. The services are now looking to remove all other personally identifying indicators, such as name, gender or race.

“We recognize that knowledge, skills, attributes and the content of your character are what should advance you through the system, not any particular personal identity characteristics,” Milley said.

The military will be able to determine diversity through statistics, he said, but promotions should be done “in a very neutral way and based on merit.”

“I think it's a good way to go, and I think the results will be telling in the future,” Milley said, adding that the move was recommended and supported by all the services.

DoD is also updating its equal opportunity and diversity inclusion policies, reviewing hairstyle and grooming policies for racial bias, and reviewing the effectiveness of the services’ equal opportunity offices.

The U.S. military has areas to improve, Milley said, but it “has been and remains the largest meritocracy in the world.”

“We, the military, have been and will continue to be an incredible steadying force through all of the various challenges,” he said.