In a speech to West Point’s class of 2016, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday that more women and openly gay soldiers will only serve to make the U.S. military stronger.
“Having men and women together in the battlefield is an incredible asset, particularly when they’re asked to lead teams in parts of the world with fundamentally different expectations and norms,” Biden said in his graduation speech at West Point, according to The Associated Press.
Biden heaped praise on Eugene Coleman, the class president, for coming out as gay.
“E.J. would have been discharged from the Army, and we would have lost an incredible talent,” Biden said, referring to standard practice before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010. “Thanks for your courage, E.J., and I expect we’re going to hear big things from you, pal.”
Pushing diversity has been a central objective of the Obama administration.
Earlier this week, the Senate finally confirmed Eric Fanning, President Barack Obama’s pick for Secretary of the Army. He was initially nominated in September, but GOP Sen. Pat Roberts placed a hold on the nomination, saying he wanted assurances that the Pentagon would not move detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Kansas. Roberts insisted that his hold had nothing to do with Fanning’s sexual orientation. This hold infuriated White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who blasted Roberts for trying to grab public attention.
In December, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat roles up to women, a move which has kicked off additional efforts to facilitate integration. The Navy and Marine Corps are conducting a review to make sure job titles don’t unfairly exclude women by having the word “man” in them.
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