Army Leaders Want to Keep Pace with Diversity in Changing US Population




 

Army personnel officials have unveiled a new plan to build diversity across the force, on the heels of a White House order that bans certain types of diversity training in the Defense Department.

The Army People Strategy: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Annex lays out the service's plan to promote diversity through 2025 in an attempt to adapt to the country's shifting demographics.

The document replaces the Army's 2011 Diversity Roadmaps by setting multiple goals and objectives to ensure the service recruits and retains soldiers with "different experiences, values, and backgrounds, but also invests in the development and employment of our soldiers and civilians."

The new DEI annex comes just two days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order that bans the Pentagon from using diversity training programs that might suggest an ideology that a specific group in society is viewed as the oppressors and that "racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans."

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Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs, told reporters Thursday that such an approach -- putting one group ahead of another group -- would be at odds with the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

The Army depends on a culture that is very clear about "how we plan to treat our people and how we expect them to treat each other and ... through that culture, we build the cohesion to accomplish our mission," Wardynski said.

While the Army has increased in diversity, it's currently reflective of demographics in the job market across America, according to the document.

The Army officer corps is not as diverse as the enlisted corps in the same way as civilians who receive "wages grade or general schedule grades pay" are more diverse than individuals who make up the civilian senior executive population, it adds.

The new annex uses U.S. Census Bureau projections to show how the country will become more diverse by 2060. In 2019, the white demographic made up 60.4% of the population. The Hispanic demographic made up 18.3%; the Black demographic, 13.4%; and the Asian demographic, 5.9%, according to the document.

By 2060, the Hispanic demographic is projected to grow to 28.6%, the Black demographic will shrink slightly to 13%, and the Asian demographic will grow to 9.1%, it adds.

While the white demographic is projected to decrease to 43.6%, it will still be the largest demographic pool that the Army draws from as it tries to fill increasingly high-tech jobs to work on artificial intelligence and autonomous systems that will make up a large portion of the service's modernization effort.

Army officials say they have already taken steps to offer opportunities to diverse sections of the youth population to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, programs in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

"We are in 10% of high schools in America; we are actually creating a STEM JROTC curriculum focused initially on cyber security and [computer] coding to build a bench of interest in those fields in a very diverse group of high schools across our country" Wardynski said.

The Army has also changed the way it assigns officers to specific career branches at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and at Army Cadet Command, he added.

"It used to be, you picked your branch based on your standing in your class, which was really industrial ... and we had problems getting the talent in the branches we wanted, where we thought it would fit best," he said.

Engineering students at West Point tend to have a lower standing in their class based on grade point average, compared to cadets who major in law, Wardynski said.

"Now, the branches look at many, many attributes, over 20, to identify talent that they ought to have in their branches [and] market them to the graduation cadets at West Point and ROTC," he said. "The graduating cadets market their attributes to the branches to be selected, and we get a talent match, much as you would find in industry."

The service's effort to increase diversity across the force really gained momentum in 2008 with the establishment of the Army Diversity Task Force. That led to the 2011 Army Diversity Roadmaps and the 2019 launch of the Equity and Inclusion Agency, officials said.

In late June, Army leaders launched Project Inclusion, an effort to eliminate bias in the ranks, beginning with removing official photos from promotion board packages.

The new DEI annex sets goals for increasing leader accountability for fostering diversity at all levels of the Army. Those include developing procedures to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion, as well as measuring the overall effectiveness of the effort, the document states.

The annex will also develop new DEI training and education programs for each career stage for Army personnel and civilians, from entry-level to senior positions of command, according to the document.

In the past, Army officials have talked about diversity in a very "one-dimensional way," said Anselm Beach, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Equity and Inclusion

"We have talked about it through a very visual kind of construct, and with the Army People Strategy: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Annex, what we are actually doing is moving away from that visual construct," Beach said. "I think we are on the right path; as we learn more, we pivot and we change and we become better."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Trump Bans DoD Diversity Training That Suggests US Is Racist

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