On the day he took office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order setting the stage for a host of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the entire federal government. On April 15, the Defense Department unveiled its 25-page plan, with a list of values, goals and some moves already made toward a more inclusive workforce, as well as more equitable business dealings.
The idea, according to the plan’s executive summary, is that DoD will expand its DEI efforts outside of the department itself, to be more inclusive in all its dealings, to include contracting and community outreach.
There are five main efforts within the plan: procurement and contracting; military installations; military families; artificial intelligence research and development; and underserved communities.
One goal of the procurement and contracting effort, for example, is to refresh DoD’s small-business strategy to maximize these companies’ capabilities through a department-wide approach that aligns its efforts “with the President’s focus on increasing the share of dollars going to small disadvantaged businesses by lowering barriers to entry and increasing competition opportunities for small businesses and traditionally underserved entrepreneurs.”
The department also plans to advance equity through requirements on wage setting and labor practices in the DoD contractor and subcontractor workforce and supply chain, according to the plan.
The department has pledged to take a more thoughtful approach to communities around bases, “including through the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program, the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, and prioritizing clean-up of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS),” and to “advance equity for military families who are members of underserved communities, including through increased investments and expanded programming in DoD Educational Activity (DoDEA) schools, improving economic security and opportunities for military spouses, advancing health equity, and combating economic challenges experienced by military families related to housing and food insecurity.”
The plan also includes a roundup of some efforts DoD has already put in place, including 2021′s anti-extremism stand down, rescinding the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members and an effort to reduce food insecurity among troops’ families.
Hand-in-hand with food insecurity, the Pentagon has pledged to work on resources for military spouses, whose frequent moves make it difficult to stay employed or find work commensurate with their skills.
There’s also a four-year strategic initiative for Department of Defense Education Activity schools to “drive towards more equitable outcomes for students of color, students with disabilities, and other underserved students in DoD schools,” according to the plan.
To drive the increase of small-business opportunities in DoD acquisitions, including participation by small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and businesses located in historically underutilized business zones, the department will capitalize on ongoing strategic planning efforts such as the DoD Small Business Strategy and its implementation plan.
The department has 90 days to come up with an implementation strategy, a milestone timeline and a projected completion date.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.