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Navy task force makes 56 recommendations to address diversity and bias

Service members selected for promotion to chief petty officer arrive in formation during a promotion ceremony at Naval Station Rota, Spain, Jan. 29, 2021.

NAVAL STATION ROTA, SPAIN

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 3, 2021

WASHINGTON — A task force made 56 recommendations related to inclusion and diversity of personnel to improve the culture of the Navy, according to its report released Wednesday.

“While there still is work to be done, I am confident that this report’s recommendations will help make our Navy better, and we will move forward together toward meaningful long-lasting change. Make no mistake, I am personally committed to this effort,” Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement.

Task Force One Navy was created in July 2020 in reaction to the national uproar over the death of George Floyd and protests against police brutality and institutional racism. The group was asked to explore issues of racism, sexism and bias and how they affected the readiness of the Navy.

“We have fallen short in the past by excluding or limiting opportunity for people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender or creed. Our Navy must continue to remove barriers to service, and most importantly, be a shining example of a workforce centered on respect, inclusive of all,” Gilday said in the statement.

Over the next six months, the task force held 20 listening sessions with sailors, and there were also more than 280 focus groups from around the Navy, according to the report.

While the final document does not include examples of real stories that were discussed, Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, director of the task force, said they took the empathy and respect that they heard and witnessed from the sailors and incorporated that into the report.

“We saw transformation watching people in sessions hear other folks’ stories. That’s how powerful it was,” he said. “And then respect -- one of our recommendations talks to adding respect to our core values.”

The group produced 56 recommendations grouped in five areas: recruiting; talent management and retention; professional development; innovation and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM; and additional recommendations.

One of the recommendations is to “counter hate speech” by drafting a document that would “increase accountability and awareness of derogatory language.” It is meant to empower leaders by educating them on behaviors and language that constitute hate speech and encouraging action, the report says.

Another was to establish a pilot mentoring program of volunteer flag officers, master chief petty officers and senior civilians who would mentor service members from different backgrounds to improve or increase retention rates and advancement opportunities for personnel from underrepresented communities.

Also recommended: A standing committee should be formed to modernize the process for naming ships, buildings and streets to honor national and historic naval figures. Currently, there are ships named after the Confederacy or white supremacists, such as the USS Chancellorsville and the USNS Maury.

The report also found a lack of diversity in the aviation and submarine career fields. Two of the recommendations involve reaching out to grade schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions to raise awareness of STEM career opportunities in fields such as submarines.

Creating an adviser for policy related to women’s issues was also recommended after “significant feedback” from the listening sessions and focus groups, according to the report. In addition to the adviser, there would be an advisory group to provide input on such issues as uniform and grooming standards, as a way to improve retention and career progression.

The task force leadership emphasized that their work would not fade away but would continue through the Navy’s larger Culture of Excellence campaign. The campaign is focused on improving overall readiness and professionalism of sailors and holding people accountable for their conduct and actions.

kenney.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @caitlinmkenney