The Air Force announced a new set of 13 inclusion initiatives Friday with the goal of ensuring the force isn’t as white, male and heterosexual as it is now.
Air Force officials are intent on building upon a foundation of nine initiatives from 2015, in order to boost diversity.
Those nine initiatives weren’t enough to make the Air Force as diverse as desired, which is why it is taking more intensive steps in 2016.
The first new initiative mandates that at least one diverse candidate will have to be in the running for important developmental positions like aide-de camp, senior enlisted advisor and executive officer, among other roles.
“This initiative will require that the pool of Airmen considered for key military developmental positions… include at least one qualified, diverse candidate,” the Air Force’s new fact sheet reads, before going on to say that mandating diverse candidates in the selection pool does not mandate actually hiring that diverse candidate for the position.
A second proposal, however, declares that Development Teams (DTs) and Command Selection Boards (CSBs), both intimately involved in the selection process, must have a certain number of diverse candidates sitting on them.
More dramatically, the CSB or DT president must “assess the diversity of both the selectees and those not selected for command following the board’s decision.” In other words, the heads of these boards will have to provide clear justification if they decide to make decisions that run-up against diversity goals.
To head-off immediate criticisms of the far-reaching proposals, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently insisted to Air Force Times in an interview: “This is not about social engineering. This is about maintaining a competitive advantage.”
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James put down her foot and said she wants to make the demographics of the service match more closely with the changing demographics of America.
“This is the way America is,” James said. “America is a diverse population, and we don’t want to shut down pieces of the population from which we can recruit. We want the best we can possibly get from all sectors.”
And to get the best from all sectors, as the Air Force puts it, commanders will be pressured to choose diverse airmen as recruiters to boost diversity in the service.
But even as diversity increases, there are still numerous key positions that don’t seem to attract diverse candidates, namely pilots, cyber operations, intelligence operations and space and missile operations, which is very upsetting to Air Force officials.
So in careers where there isn’t a lot of diversity, commanders will have to come up with plans explaining why airmen in those positions are mostly white, male heterosexuals and how commanders can work towards changing that representation.
Although the Air Force already has unconscious bias training, the service wants to change the dates of the training to take place just before officials make key career decisions.
“To the fullest extent possible, unconscious bias training will be given immediately prior to promotion boards, prior to DT meetings on school assignments, prior to civilian hiring panels, and prior to annual performance evaluations,” the fact sheet notes.
Air Force officials have argued in the past that diversity is a national security imperative.
“Diversity and inclusion are national security imperatives,” Air Force Director of Diversity and Inclusion Chevalier Cleaves said in 2015. “So we must succeed. There is no second place for us. In order to do that, we need to make sure that we leverage the talent of all Americans, not just some.”
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