Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland -- March 3, 2017. Diversity helps keep America's Army incredibly capable and mission-ready. One of the strengths of a diverse, all-volunteer force is the benefit it provides by allowing the Army to maximize individual talents, increase morale and enhance military effectiveness. Such positives are not lost here at APG and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM).

"To me, the Army leads the way as a prime example of diversity in America," said CECOM Commanding General and APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford. "The Army and its leadership foster and sustain a culture where all Soldiers are able to have careers and educations to reach their full potential -- and I say that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
"The U.S. Army strongly embraces diversity."

But in the Army, there is also the flip side --- the civilian side. How does one attract non-traditional employees to as diverse an employer as CECOM and doing so under the terms of meeting the federal guidelines of workforce diversity? Improvement can -- and is -- being made.

"CECOM is not reflective of the national civilian labor force statistics in some areas," said Neslie A. Etheridge, CECOM EEO Director. "If you use the logic that a model employer would be reflective of those societal statistics and have corresponding results, and we as a federal entity should be an exemplary leader in meeting that model, we are not there.

"But we are moving towards remedying that standing right now."
Etheridge explained that overall CECOM representations fall short of the national civilian labor force statistics in three categories: Women, Hispanic and Individuals With Targeted Disabilities (IWTDs). He said the national average for these categories are: Women (48.14%), Hispanic (9.96%) and a federally-mandated goal for IWTDs (2.00%). CECOM is currently sitting at about 24% for women, which means CECOM would need to double its representations of women in the organization to reach the national statistics. "Our trend analysis of the organization showed that the annual average attrition rate for women over the last 5 years was 1.74%---losing representations while simultaneously attempting to increase diversity, putting the movement in the proverbial 'one step forward, two steps back' range.

"We ran the models ourselves," Etheridge said. "Even with current efforts, there is a very good probability that if things ran as they are, and we kept losing these representative numbers and only replaced them in our current methods and minimal initiatives, we would not achieve national civilian labor force representation for about another 41 years."

Etheridge acknowledged that the nature of the work across CECOM is also not along the traditional employment venues highly populated by the shortfall groups. That is another factor that complicates representation in the command. But movements are afoot.

Etheridge said key, special programs have been put into motion to address the increase for needed representations. For Women, Etheridge said efforts to target recruitment at traditionally female college institutions is a priority. CECOM EEO has also expanded and increased its efforts to target speaking opportunities for CECOM leadership at national, female-focused forums to push CECOM employment opportunities, and recently assisted in developing an employment advertisement directed squarely at women, which was published in 'Diversity in Action' magazine's March-April edition. And under the auspices of the EEO Program, a newly-appointed Federal Women Program (FWP) Manager, Joy Christmas, sits in Etheridge's office and is a member of the APG FWP Committee---placing special emphasis on initiatives to increase women representation at APG.
CECOM EEO has led similar efforts for increasing Hispanic representation. The office in collaboration with the CECOM G-1 office has targeted predominantly Hispanic outlets ala women's schools and historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). A corresponding network exists for Hispanics and includes schools such as the University of Texas at El Paso. Like-minded institutions in similar geographic areas have also been identified. A newly- appointed Hispanic Employment Program Manager, Roxanne Conley, also sits in Etheridge's office and is a member of the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program managers.

The third area for recruitment is people with 'targeted disabilities' Etheridge said.
"In this area, we are working with federal, state and local offices associated with people with disabilities to identify qualified applicants for employment consideration---groups like the Division of Rehabilitative Services, Susquehanna Workforce Center and local Arc, as well as the DoD Workforce Recruitment Program. We have access to resume repositories containing over 35,000 Individuals with Disabilities seeking employment opportunities," Etheridge said.

Etheridge said the overall federal goal is to have 2% of the overall workforce represented in this group. In FY16, CECOM sat at .75%. There are 12 targeted disability areas: developmental disability, traumatic brain injury, deaf, blind, missing extremities, significantly mobility-impaired, partial or complete paralysis, epilepsy, intellectual disability, significant psychiatric disorders, dwarfism, and significant disfigurement. Part of the effort to address the shortfall occurred on March 3 when CECOM G1 and the Disability Program Manager, David Pickett, participated in a job fair at Gallaudet University, a federally-chartered university for the education of the Deaf, located in DC.

"What we've also done in CECOM," Etheridge said," we've provided supervisors training on the Army reasonable accommodation procedures, and have identified a team to look through resume repositories for qualified people with disabilities for employment consideration, to hire via special hiring authority for people with disabilities. It can be a win-win --- the command increases its diversity, and the vacancy is filled quicker."

Etheridge also expressed pride while handing out a "hot off the presses" copy of the CECOM Management Directive 715, the FY16 report of CECOM's Equal Employment Opportunity Program. The document was sent out for command-wide release on March 6, 2017.
EEO --- working behind the scenes for you and the command.