Navy trying to better diversity through STEM investments, recruiting changes, scholarships

The Navy is moving to implement about 60 recommendations aimed at increasing inclusion and bettering race relations in the service.

The suggestions come from Task Force One Navy, an entity created in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed.

The recommendations take a holistic approach to the service’s talent management system by touching on four main areas: recruiting, retention, professional development and STEM. There is also a fifth category that acts as a catchall for issues that do not fit into the four core lines of effort.

“We need to bring more diversity in the front door and we need to make sure that we keep that diversity,” said Vice Adm. John Nowell, chief of naval personnel, on a call with reporters. “This is not about quotas. This is about how do we make sure that as we look at things like mentoring and advocacy that we’re paying attention to them.”

The report comes as the Defense Department is embarking on a 60-day stand down to address extremism in its ranks.

One area the Navy highlighted as needing improvement is in the upper echelons of its officer corps. All ten of the Navy’s highest-ranking officers are white men. There are no black or Hispanic people who make up the nearly 40 vice admirals in the Navy either. The one- and two-star admiral positions, are 90% and 94% white, respectively.

“The Navy is challenged to retain minorities who demonstrate the propensity to continue to serve in the military but shift out of the core warfighting communities at a higher rate than their white peers,” the report states. “Navy Personnel Command has contracted with CNA to further analyze this shift. This study, which involves one-on-one interviews, should be completed by spring 2021.”

The Navy is moving immediately to implement some of the recommendations. They include things like establishing a “whole person” evaluation framework for recruiting that deemphasized the use of standardized tests and changing marketing to appeal more to minorities.

“We want to look at assigning a special assistant for diversity at the Navy Personnel Center,” Charles Barber, the Pentagon’s senior advisor for inclusion and diversity, told Federal News Network. “We also looked at expanding diversity data in our record of proceedings for selection boards and ensuring that we have diversity on those panels.”

In the professional development category, the Navy is increasing scholarships to underrepresented communities and developing a bias mitigation tool to assist leaders when making decisions.

The Navy is also putting more of an effort in STEM to attract younger students with diverse backgrounds and working with minority STEM groups.

As for miscellaneous recommendations, the service will establish an advisory for women’s policy issues and add the word “respect” to its core values.

Barber said sailors will see some effects of the task force right away.

“They’re going to see that listening sessions will continue immediately,” he said, talking about groups of sailors getting together and sharing their experiences. “We developed a necessary compensation guide to help our senior leaders facilitate those discussions.”

The Navy plans on finishing an implementation guide by April to move forward with other recommendations.

The service is also working to take into account that it is just a microcosm of a larger systemically racist society. Therefore, minorities are disadvantaged before they even get to the Navy.

“That’s where that STEM initiative comes into place where we can kind of help offer accelerators or opportunities to improve STEM programs before service members even come into the military. That’s  how we’re looking at to the left,” Barber said. “When you look at inclusion and diversity and improving systemic inequalities, these things are good for humanity. We know that the things we’re putting in place are bigger than the Navy. It’s bigger than us, these things are good for humanity.”

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