Recognizing the harm of systemic racism to individuals and the military, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has announced an effort to ensure equity for US service members. Esper made the announcement Thursday in a video, the Washington Post reports, saying the military is "not immune to the forces of bias and prejudice." The result is damage to the experiences of service members of color, the diversity of the military and the makeup of the officer ranks, he said. "These things have no place in our military; they have no place in our country." The Pentagon will immediately establish internal and external boards on diversity and inclusion, per Stars and Stripes. In addition, military and defense leaders are to propose ways to broaden diversity by the end of the month.
The military once was a US leader in diversity—integration began in 1948—and this provides a chance to retake such leadership. Esper said he's been consulting military and civilian leaders in preparation for the launch, per CNN. "We all agree that it is time to lead once again on this issue as America's most respected institution, and a globally recognized leader when it comes to building diverse, winning teams, and creating opportunity for all." Pentagon figures show minorities account for about 43% of the active-duty force but only 23% of officers. Officers and other leaders need to "double down on your mentorship of up-and-coming minority leaders," Esper said. (Read more diversity stories.)