In line with the Federal government and Department of Defense (DoD), the US Army is putting a renewed emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) policies, with the aim of maintaining a vibrant workforce that represents the wide-ranging backgrounds of the American people. As policies continue to evolve, the Army is working to ensure that the current workforce understands the issues at hand, while simultaneously recruiting from a comprehensive pool of potential workers.
These DEI policy changes have not come easily. Over the course of the past decade, numerous amendments have combined to create an increasingly inclusive environment within the federal workforce. This era of change can be traced to Executive Order 13583 (August 18, 2011), Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce. Recognizing that the Unites States “derives strength from the diversity of its population and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all,” and that “We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of society,” Executive Order 13583 sought to “promote the Federal workforce at a model of equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion” by recruiting from all segments of society.
The document concludes, “By this order, I am directing executive departments and agencies to develop and implement a more comprehensive, integrated, and strategic focus on diversity and inclusion as a key component of their human resources strategies. This approach should include a continuing effort to identify and adopt best practices, implemented in an integrated manner, to promote diversity and remove barriers to equal employment opportunity, consistent with merit system principles and applicable law.”
Since the issuance of this Executive Order, other policies have worked to expand and clarify the efforts of the Federal government, DoD, and Army to promote DEI in the workforce. The National Defense Authorization Acts for FY 2014, 2015, and 2016 contributed to these efforts by strengthening sexual harassment and hazing policies, while recognizing the diverse sexual orientations of Soldiers and Civilians.
DoD Directive 1020.02E (Diversity Management in Equal Opportunity in the DoD), June 8, 2015, made an effort to define the relevant terms for the benefit of the workforce. It defined Diversity as, “All the different characteristics and attributes of the DoD’s total force, which are consistent with DoD’s core values, integral to overall readiness and mission accomplishment, and reflective of the Nation we serve.” It defined Inclusion as, “Valuing and integrating each individual’s perspectives, ideas, and contributions into the way an organization functions and makes decisions.”
Army policies closely align with those of the DoD policy. According to the most recent guidance, “We define workforce diversity as a collection of individual attributes that together help agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include, but are not limited to, characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structures. The concept also encompasses differences among people concerning where they are from and where they have lived and their differences of thought and life experiences.”
On the subject of Inclusion, the Army policy states, “We define inclusion as a culture that connects each employee to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and leverages diversity throughout the organization so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential.” The Army further defines Equity as “The fair treatment, access, opportunity, choice, and advancement for all Soldiers and Civilians while striving to identify and encourage drivers and identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of the Total Force.”
In 2016, the US Army Talent Management Strategy Force 2025 and Beyond plan delineated Army goals, objectives, and definitions. It called for the establishment of a ready, professional, diverse, and integrated workforce, stating, “The Army possesses people and teams with the breadth and depth of talents that collectively make our profession highly adaptable. In this context, diversity includes race, gender, and other demographics as well as the talents – skills, knowledge, and behaviors – of the total force.” To maintain this environment, the Army committed to identifying and recruiting, “the diverse talents required for the current and future force, develop that talent for initial entry into one of the Army’s workforce segments, and set conditions for its optimized employment,” ensuring that the organization is both diverse and inclusive.
DEI efforts are integral to building trust and achieving overall readiness and mission accomplishment of the Army mission. These efforts promote organizational agility and adaptability by leveraging the attributes, experiences, cultures, characteristics, and backgrounds of the workforce. To be effective, commanders and leaders must be inclusive in their approach. This includes acquiring and retaining exceptional talent from a wide pool, reaching into untapped communities and agencies where recruiting has been minimal.
To this end, the Army is committed to embracing a more diverse U.S. population, while recognizing that diversity alone is not enough. It must also establish effective messaging that demonstrates why DEI efforts are critical to the success of the Army, that the attributes, experiences, cultures, characteristics, backgrounds, and talents of a diverse workforce are “force multipliers” that foster an environment of inclusiveness, collaboration, and creativity.
Building and sustaining Army readiness by developing and implementing DEI policies will not only create a stronger, more dynamic workforces, but, will establish the Army as a global leader in DEI, embracing all people of our Nation and their unique contributions in an inclusive environment while projecting Army strengths into the future.
For more information on Army Diversity messaging and training, see www.armydiversity.army.mil.