Pentagon to crowdsource input on improving diversity, inclusion

The Department of Defense is crowdsourcing input from service members and civilian DoD employees for ways to better promote diversity and inclusion in the department.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for the process as part of a Board on Diversity and Inclusion the Pentagon convened in July as part of a raft of diversity initiatives he announced in June.

The board, chaired by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, has created a website to crowdsource input from DoD personnel through Oct. 16.

“The secretary wants to hear from all of our service members about what the DOD can do to improve diversity and inclusion,” said Marine Corps Maj. Sharon A. Sisbarro, a member of the board’s support office.RELATED West African leaders arrive in Mali to negotiate for coup reversal

Rather than send out a survey, Sisbarro said the website invites input in a more open-ended way: “We adopted a kind of crowdsourcing-like model, where we just said, ‘Tell us what we need to do.'”

Anyone with a common access card can access the site, but comments will be anonymous, Sisbarro said.

The Pentagon plans to use the tool to get a better sense of what service members and staff think top brass should do to promote more diversity and inclusion in military ranks.RELATED Pentagon announces $17.4M in contracts under Defense Production Act

According to Sisbarro, the board will look at a range of issues, from grooming standards to first-person experience sharing about the reality of life as a racial minority in the military.

The crowdsourcing effort comes amid a summer of protests against racial injustice in many U.S. cities, and a renewed national conversation about race. For the Pentagon, this has included recent directives to ban racist symbols from military installations and discussion about changing the names of some installations.

The disappearance and death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood in Texas — who told family members she was being sexually harassed on the base — have also sparked a conversation about the treatment of women in the military.RELATED Pentagon’s AI to be applied to natural disasters, humanitarian assistance

Guillen’s death and those of two other soldiers on or near Fort Hood — from which another soldier was reported missing last week — led the military to conduct a review of the culture of the installation,

At the end of July Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the service does not have a problem with diversity, but with inclusion — 39% of soldiers identify as racial minorities, compared to 24% of the country, but the diversity drops off higher in the ranks, as 71% of Army officers identify as White.

The other efforts Esper announced in June included the assembly of an external advisory committee on diversity and inclusion in the military, and a review of policies such as one requiring that photos be included on promotion applications

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