FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Official: DOD Readiness Depends on Workforce Diversity
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2013 - The Defense Department's commitment to equity and inclusion is rooted in the belief that diversity is a readiness imperative that gives a strategic advantage, a senior DOD official said recently during the 10th annual National Latina Style symposium.
Nearing the eve of National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Army Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, military deputy to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, addressed a largely Latina audience of about 300 people at the symposium and a DOD Distinguished Military Service Awards luncheon.
"Your military remains the most effective fighting force on the globe," Linnington said. "We recognize that diversity goes well beyond race and gender and we rely on the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise of our people to successfully respond to the many complex challenges of the 21st century national security landscape."
The Defense Department appreciates that its total force stems from a rich tapestry of America, the general said. "And we believe our all-volunteer force is better when it reflects the nation it serves," he added.
Linnington said diversity progress continues, and women and minorities in the military make "tremendous contributions" in roles critical to national defense.
"But actions speak louder than words," he said, citing DOD's January rescinding of the policy that excluded women from serving in direct combat roles.
"This is a huge step for our armed forces," the general said. "Today, nearly 200,000 women serve ... and make up nearly 15 percent of the force. Under the new policy, DOD will ensure the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender."
For Latinas and other women in uniform, the opening of combat roles to women is a chance to continue meeting and exceeding new challenges and paving the way for future leadership success, Linnington said.
"Our military workforce has grown to about 35 percent minorities and 15 percent women, with minorities comprising about 29 percent of our civilian workforce and women over a third of our civilians," he said. The number of Latina officers has more than doubled in the last decade, he noted, with more than 2,000 serving across the armed forces.
Yet, while DOD celebrates its progress and the great strides it's made, work remains to be done, Linnington said, stressing the need to increase diversity in DOD's civilian positions and in senior leadership.
"For this and other efforts, we look toward partner organizations, like Latina Style, to work with us to continue progress and improvement," he said of increasing minority representation in the civilian workforce.
An important factor that affects advancement and retention of top talent is mentorship, Linnington said.
"When groups of diverse talent gather together, we learn a great deal from one another and build relationships that carry us into the future," the general explained. "We must continue to look toward the future. Let's take a moment to ask ourselves, 'Where do we go from here?' In the audience today are key influencers from our society. ... Each of you is a mentor, and I call on you to help increase awareness of what DOD has to offer by sharing with young people the value of public service, ... either in the military ranks or as civil servants."
The Defense Department gives people the opportunities to develop leadership skills that cannot be found anywhere else and offers a full range of choices and opportunities for Latinas to fulfill great potential, Linnington added.
"Every individual here is in a unique position to help us address many of our challenges and ... help us build a more diverse and inclusive total force ... that not only possesses the diverse backgrounds and experiences to conquer global challenges, but also reflect the changing face of our nation," he said.
This month provides an excellent opportunity for DOD and other organizations to take time to recognize the immeasurable contributions made by the nation's Hispanic-Americans and reflect on diversity and inclusiveness, Linnington noted.
"We are not going to solve our challenges overnight, but together, we can continue our progress," he said.