Back in 2011, the Defense Department’s issued a report with 18 recommendations for how the military could improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the services, with a five-year Department of Defense Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. More than a decade later, just six of those recommendations have been implemented, according to an inspector general report released Tuesday.
The issue is mainly that while the report laid out a wish list, it didn’t include concrete road maps or an oversight plan, so the Pentagon simply didn’t do anything it didn’t feel like doing. It’s unfortunately not uncommon for the military to set policy but not create a mechanism to enforce it.
“As a result of not fully addressing the Strategic Plan’s three goals, the DoD may not be meeting the intent of the Strategic Plan, which is to encourage commitment and incorporate diversity and inclusion initiatives unique to each Service,” according to the report.
The breakdown is pretty straightforward: the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness office, along with the individual service diversity offices, didn’t oversee implementation of the plan because they didn’t have to.
“As a result of a lack of defined policy, roles and responsibilities, and data collection, the DoD cannot determine what progress has been made and what still needs to be accomplished,” the report found.
The goals that the Pentagon did achieve include creating a definition of diversity, a personal commitment “to making diversity an institutional priority” from military leadership, optimizing service members’ ability to make informed career choices, eliminating the combat exclusion for women, expanding the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services’ focus to the gender retention gap and the establishment of a chief diversity officer as a DoD position.
DoD’s personnel and readiness office said they were informally tracking this progress, but the IG couldn’t find any written evidence to back that up.
“As a result of the inconsistent implementation of the MLDC recommendations, the DoD has an increased risk of not recruiting, retaining, or promoting the most qualified Service members,” the report found.
Among the dozen unimplemented recommendations, there are efforts to diversify the pool of potential recruits that the services focus on, accountability reviews and mechanisms, training on leading diverse groups and “making respect for diversity a core value.”
The IG recommends that the service diversity offices, along with the DoD-level personnel and readiness office, come up with an oversight plan for implementing the remaining dozen goals.
DoD, the Navy and the Air Force all partially agreed with those recommendations, though they pushed back on the idea that they were coming up short. The IG report noted that they did not provide full evidence to contradict that, however.
“The DoD is currently focused on goals, priorities, and objectives that are relevant to where the Department is today and where it aims to be in the future,” according to the report. “Additionally, the DoD pledged to take procedural steps to ensure the proper tracking of the current and future strategic plans, including establishing milestones and obtaining supporting documentation, where applicable.”
The National Guard fully disagreed, saying that their service members are served by Army and Air Force policies. The Army and Marine Corps did not respond to the IG at all, according to the report.
The Pentagon announced in late September that it had selected leadership for a newly formed diversity, equity and inclusion advisory committee, which would be carrying the torch for previous efforts.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.