SecDef Esper announces 'immediate actions' against military racial discrimination

Elizabeth Howe
July 15, 2020 - 2:13 pm


Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Wednesday announced "immediate" actions the Department of Defense will take to address issues of racial disparities in the military. 

The actions were the result of Esper's call for recommendations from mid-June when he announced that he had directed "civilian and uniformed leadership of the Pentagon" to bring him "good" ideas to combat racial disparities among the ranks that can be implemented "NOW."

Army removes photos from promotion boards in effort to eliminate bias

The changes -- announced in a memorandum titled "Immediate Actions to Address Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Military Service" -- included measures like removing photographs from promotion boards, obtaining additional data on prejudice and bias within the force, and reviewing hairstyle and grooming policies for racial bias. The entire list of actions reads:

  • "Remove photographs from consideration by promotion boards and selection processes and develop additional guidance, as applicable, that emphasizes retaining qualified diverse talent;
  • Update the Department’s military equal opportunity and diversity inclusion policies;
  • Obtain and analyze additional data on prejudice and bias within the force;
  • Add bias awareness and bystander intervention to the violence prevention framework;
  • Develop educational requirements for implementation across the military lifecycle to educate the force on unconscious bias;
  • Develop a program of instruction containing techniques and procedures which enable commanders to have relevant, candid and effective discussions;
  • Review hairstyle and grooming policies for racial bias;
  • Review effectiveness of Military Service equal opportunity offices; and,
  • Support Military Department initiatives."

These immediate changes are part of the DoD's larger efforts against racial disparities which were launched in response to the national unrest following the killing of George Floyd. 

SecDef creates all-new board for 'diversity and inclusion' in the military

The "Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion" was announced on June 18 as a "six-month sprint to develop concrete, actionable recommendations to increase racial diversity and ensure equal opportunity across all ranks & in the officer corps," Esper announced in a Twitter thread. 

"Bias and prejudice have no place in our military, or in our country," Esper added in his announcement of the new diversity board. "Prejudices – whether visible or invisible, conscious or unconscious — remain a burden to many. They hold back the diversity of the force, representation in our officer ranks, and experiences of our minority members."


Reach @ECBHowe.

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