First meeting held for military-wide Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The first meeting of the Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion, a key mechanism in Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s effort to address “bias and prejudice” across the entire military, was chaired by Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, July 15.

Esper created the Board and appointed Barrett to lead as one element in DoD’s three-pronged initiative that was triggered by the larger national focus on racial injustice and specifically the death of George Floyd. 

“This board’s mission is to achieve long-term impact — a commitment to making transformational change that will become part of the Department of Defense’s DNA,” Barrett said. “Diversity is more than tolerance. Genuine diversity generates acceptance. This Board’s mandate is to move forward with alacrity and positively transform the Defense Department for today’s service members and for generations to come.”  

Esper, who also attended the meeting, attested to the Board’s importance and the high-profile nature of the undertaking. The defense secretary met with members of the board as they outlined the DoD’s way forward on addressing diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity.

“The actions I am directing are a necessary first step, but I have no illusion that these initial actions will fully address the concerns many of us know and which I have personally heard from many service members,” Esper said.

While Esper said he was pleased with the Board’s initial meeting, he also offered a sober assessment of what lies ahead.

“Hard work remains as efforts to shift our culture requires steadfast attention,” he said. “I look forward to receiving the recommendations of the Board and making further progress on these issues. I want to thank each member of the Board for taking on this responsibility and working to make the U.S. military a more cohesive, ready and capable force in defense of our great nation.”

Along with other efforts initiated by Esper, the Board, under Barrett’s direction, is working to identify actions the Department can take within policies, programs and processes to improve diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity for all service members.

The Board’s work is the middle prong of DoD’s three-tiered approach. The first is a short-term “sprint” to identify immediate actions. The Diversity and Inclusion Board and its recommendations is the “middle term” action, and the third long-term initiative is to establish a Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the armed forces.

“When the military embraces people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and creeds, we are stronger,” Barrett said. “Diversity among Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Space Professionals enables us to solve problems and innovate in ways we otherwise could not. An inclusive environment facilitates creativity and adaptation. A military culture of diversity and inclusion is not optional, it is mission essential.”

In addition to Barrett, Board members include: 

-Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan (Senior Department Member)

-Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón Colón-López (Senior Enlisted Member)

-Air Force Brig. Gen. Troy Dunn (Military Lead)

-Navy Capt. Judy Malana (Senior Officer)

-Army Maj. Wrencla Lopez (Member)

-Army Maj. Randy Fleming (Member)

-Marine Capt. Oludare Adeniji (Member)

-Navy Lt. Cassandra Chang (Member)

-Army Capt. Chrystal Ware (Member)

-Navy Master Chief Petty Officer John Diaz (Member)

-Army Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Harvey (Member)

-Air Force Master Sgt. Deondra Parks (Member)

-Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jessica Todd (Member)

-Space Force Tech. Sgt. Tysheena Brown-Jefferson (Member)

The Secretary of Defense June 19 memorandum directing DoD’s three-pronged approach can be found here. The memorandum on Immediate Actions to Address Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Military Services can be found here.