Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is “concerned” about the lack of diversity among the senior ranks of the military and believes leaders should make a concerted effort to change it, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.
“He’s certainly concerned about the diversity at the senior levels of the department. And this is not just senior enlisted levels, but senior officer levels, admirals, and generals,” Kirby said at a Pentagon press conference. “The numbers are not very high.”
“The secretary believes this has got to be a concerted effort, an everyday effort, and it’s got to be led. If leaders across the department don’t take this on as a personal commitment, it’s not going to change,” he said.
He knows it’s not going to change overnight. That doesn’t mean you slack up on the pressure. You don’t continue to try to get this right. But he understands that this is going to take time to grow that kind of leadership in the kind of talent.
But he also believes there’s a sense of urgency here. The time is now to start to grow that talent and develop that talent and provide opportunities for that talent to continue to advance of the ranks.
The last thing I’ll say on this, and I can say it any better than he has, is that this is a readiness issue. It is important for the force to look like the country it serves, absolutely. But he strongly believes that diversity is a readiness issue because it allows different perspectives, additional context, different lived experiences to inform the way we make decisions in the policies that we craft, the operations that we lead. So, it’s very much a part of making us of much more capable force.
Kirby’s comments came after a reporter asked him if Austin agreed with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, who spoke earlier in the day at a graduation ceremony at Howard University, a historically black university, about the lack of advancement opportunities in the military for black Americans.
Kirby said Austin “agrees with Chairman Milley, that there is much more that we need to do to improve diversity and inclusion and opportunity inside theforce. And it’s something that he has tackled literally since becoming Secretary of Defense.”
He pointed to the hiring of a director for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Bishop Garrison.
“He’s given Bishop a wide berth to take a look at these kinds of issues across the force to see how we can improve our diversity better,” he said.