The Navy’s efforts to improve equality have clearly fallen short of “addressing the societal challenges of today,” a military task force created following the nation’s racial reckoning found.
Task Force One Navy issued dozens of recommendations on Wednesday after months of evaluating the military branch’s diversity and inclusion practices.
“We have fallen short in the past by excluding or limiting opportunity for people on the basis of race, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender or creed,” Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement.
“Our Navy must continue to remove barriers to service, and most importantly, be a shining example of a workforce centered on respect, inclusive of all. Simply put, all Sailors — uniformed and civilian – and applicants for accession to the Navy must be treated with dignity and respect above all else.”
While diversity within the Navy ranks has improved over the past 20 years and is slightly better than America’s demographics, the task force said, the organization must develop more leaders of color.
About 77% of the Navy’s officers are White and retention is an issue for Hispanics, Asian Americans and women.
The report also acknowledged that the Navy had not always prioritized these issues or taken the necessary steps to become as inclusive as it should be.
“Growing diverse teams and building inclusive workplaces takes an intentional and sustained leadership focus. It takes decades to fully realize the benefits from sustained actions taken today,” the report said. “No one is exempt, as this is a top down issue.”
The task force indicated that the names of some ships have been linked to Confederate officers and White supremacist ideologies but there is no internal process or effort in place to review the names. The group has recommended the Navy launch a formal assessment.
The release of the findings comes as the Navy investigates reports that a noose was found on a San Diego-based warship last month.
An object “resembling a noose was found in a berthing area” aboard the USS Lake Champlain,” said Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, spokesperson for the Naval Surface Forces Pacific.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin committed last month “to rid our ranks of racists and extremists.”
During his confirmation hearing last month, Austin told lawmakers he would strive to offer a working environment free of discrimination, hate and harassment.
“The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies but we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks,” Austin said.