Senior Pentagon officials have until Aug. 15 to tell Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper what they are doing to implement policies to handle questions of racism and discrimination with each of the military services.
In a memorandum released Wednesday, Mr. Esper issued several directives that follow recommendations that came from throughout the Department of Defense.
He wants military officials to review hairstyle and grooming policies for any signs of racial bias. Each military service also is expected to review appearance standards and policies and make “appropriate policy modifications” by mid-September.
The armed forces will no longer include photographs as part of a promotion or command board or any other process involving selecting personnel for assignments or training. All references to race, ethnicity or gender will be removed “to ensure promotion boards and selection processes enable equal opportunity for all.”
Notably absent from Mr. Esper’s memorandum is any mention of the controversy over Army posts named for Confederate generals such as Braxton Bragg or John Bell Hood or the display of the Confederate battle flag.
Mr. Esper also wants an update on the military’s equal opportunity and inclusion policies.
“The (Defense Department) will update its military harassment policy to strengthen protections for servicemembers against inappropriate and intolerable harassing behaviors,” the memorandum stated.
The new policy follows several weeks’ worth of protests and demonstrations throughout the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Mr. Esper wrote that prejudice and bias within the U.S. military are not always transparent. He wants officials to increase the frequency of workplace and equal opportunity surveys to gauge their policy’s effectiveness and identify any areas that need improvement.
Mr. Esper also wants monthly updates through the end of the year.
“The actions I am directing are a necessary first step but hard work remains and we will continue to learn as we move forward,” he wrote.
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