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Congressman Brown Celebrates Significant Progress on Diversity and Inclusion in 2021 NDAA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony Brown (MD-04), Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee and 30-year Army veteran, celebrated Congress’ override of President Donald Trump’s veto of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act. The final bill is now law and represents one of the most significant steps forward in promoting and fostering diversity within the military.

Of the 41 most senior commanders in the military, only two are Black. A decade after the bipartisan Military Leadership Diversity Commission, many of those recommendations have yet to be implemented. Meanwhile, 43 percent of the 1.3 million men and women on active duty are people of color.

“Fostering diversity and inclusion within our military and across the broader defense community is critical to our national security. By tapping into the talents of all Americans and giving them opportunities to succeed, our military is stronger and our country is safer,” said Vice Chair Brown. “In this National Defense Authorization Act, we take one of the most significant steps forward for diversity and inclusion since integration in the 1950s. Our military must set an example for the country and lead, as it has done in the past. By overriding the president’s veto, we once again affirm our founding values.” 

The final bill included the following provisions from Congressman Brown related to diversity and inclusion;

  • Significant portions of the Diversity in Defense Act of 2020, including: 

    • Elevating the Chief Diversity Officer to report directly to the Secretary of Defense.

    • Establishing a Senior Advisor for diversity in each of the military services reporting directly to the secretary of that service.

    • Requiring the Secretary of Defense and secretaries of each branch of the Armed Services to set an objective of an officer and enlisted corps that reflects the eligible U.S. population.

    • Requiring diversity and inclusion be a component of each National Defense Strategy.

    • Requiring annual assessment by the Department of Defense to identify barriers to advancement, ensure accountability on meeting goals and initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion.

    • Requiring that membership of selection boards represent the diversity of the Armed Forces.

    • Requiring the establishment of a comprehensive mentoring program and career development framework which would provide measurable metric outcomes with the goal of increasing diversity in senior ranks and retaining the best and brightest in the military.

    • Requiring the Chief Diversity Officer to create a strategic plan that spurs participation by HBCUs and MSIs in research, development, testing, and evaluation activities.

  • The PANORAMA Act, mandating race, gender, ethnicity and other demographic metrics for academy nominations be collected and published on an annual basis. Women have never exceeded 27 percent of nominations made by Members of Congress. Nominations of minority candidates and those from marginalized communities continue to lag.

  • The ELITE Act, requiring the Department of Defense to conduct a study through a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) on the barriers facing minorities from serving in certain elite units of the Armed Forces, including pilots and special operations. Only 5 percent of Army Green Beret, 2 percent of SEALS and only 0.6 percent of the Air Force's para-rescue jumpers are Black.

  • The FLIGHT Act, providing new resources for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority institutions, with special emphasis on support for flight training. Only 1.7% of Air Force pilots (and less than 3% of civilian pilots) are Black.

  • The PROMOTES Act, including grants for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) instruction or activities within the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programs. 68 percent of JROTC cadets do not have the opportunity to take an Advanced Placement (AP) computer science course in their school. Many of these schools are disproportionately located in low-income and minority communities. 

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