Military Racial Policy

"Equal Opportunity"

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"Defense Department Directive on Equal Opportunity." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 14-15.

SuDoc No.: D2.15/2

An article illustrating the components and meaning of the Department of Defense Directive aimed at eliminating discrimination.


Defense Department Directive on Equal Opportunity

Source: "Defense Department Directive on Equal Opportunity." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 14-15. Soon after he took office Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird issued a Human Goals credo which said: "The attainment of these goals requires that we strive... To make military and civilian service in the Department of Defense a model of equal opportunity for all..."

He also ordered an examination of DoD policy to determine changes needed to "remove every vestige of discrimination," giving top priority to the solution of such problems as:

Racial discrimination in promotions; unfair treatment in work assignments and details and in nonjudicial punishment, pretrial confinement and other aspects of military justice; discrimination in off-base housing, clubs, restaurants, and retail stores; racial polarization in enlisted clubs on base; an inability or unwillingness of those in leadership position to accept differences in culture and life styles and to distinguish between activists and militants; minority members' lack of confidence in the chain of command and its ability to respond to the needs of young troops; and lack of confidence in the desire of command leadership to exercise its responsibility and authority in these areas.

In order to make equal opportunity not just an ideal but a reality in the Department of Defense, Mr. Laird issued in December 1970 a forceful new directive on "Equal Opportunity Within the Department of Defense" (DoD Directive 1100.15, dated December 14, 1970). The directive contained two important new policies. They were:

First, consider leadership in operating successful equal opportunity programs as a criterion in the evaluation for promotion of military and civilian officials.

Second, impose effective sanctions for noncompliance against officials who fail to produce satisfactory results.

As Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) Roger T. Kelley has pointed out, those two areas "were incorporated in the directive to make it perfectly clear that good performance or bad performance in the equal opportunity area is a basis for promotion or non-promotion of the individual. And to make it additionally clear that failure to step up to the responsibilities that are defined in this directive would be cause for taking appropriate action against the individual... Appropriate action could mean removal of the individual from his command post."

Key provisions of DoD Directive 1100.15 are:

  • Equal opportunity and treatment must be accorded all military members, civilian employees and dependents – and Employees of Defense contractors as well – regardless of:
    • Race
    • Color
    • Sex
    • Religion
    • National Origin

  • Local commanders must take action to oppose and overcome discrimination both on and off base. They no longer have to refer off-base problems to OSD but can now act on their own authority in putting unfair clubs and restaurants off-limits and in placing restrictive sanctions against landlords who discriminate against landlords who discriminate – both in the United States and overseas.

  • Leadership in operating successful equal opportunity programs is a criterion in evaluating military and civilian officials for promotion.

  • Furthermore, "effective sanctions" must be imposed against officials who fail to produce satisfactory results. Such sanctions can range from written reprimands to removal from command.

  • In hiring, placing, and promoting civilian employees, numerical goals and timetables must be established to insure proportionate representation of and equal opportunity for minorities – specifically including women.

  • Any regulation or practice which serves as an obstacle to equal opportunity must be repealed or amended.

  • Aggressive Affirmative Action programs must be established and maintained for both uniformed members and civilian employees to make sure that DoD policy is being carried out, and uniform reporting systems established to measure results.

  • Finally, Service secretaries and the directors of the principal Defense Agencies are held both responsible and accountable for results.
Source: "Defense Department Directive on Equal Opportunity." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 14-15.



Department of Defense Directive 1100.15 stipulates that Aggressive Affirmative Action programs "shall include the use of numerical goals and timetables as a means to increase the utilization of minorities in occupations and levels in which their representation is out of balance. Such goals are to be attainable but challenging and are to insure progress toward full integration... at all levels."

In explaining that provision of the directive, Assistant Secretary of Defense Roger T. Kelly has said:

"We found a need to establish with a directive the requirement that – both within the military and the civilian organization – there should be strong, positive, affirmative action programs, and that a special feature of those affirmative action programs would be the utilization of numerical goals and timetables.

"We believe that to be effective managers in the area of equal opportunity we have to quantify our goals relative to minority employment in areas that we find ourselves to be deficient, that is to say, areas in which we under-employ minorities.

"We believe, also, that complementary to those goals should be a timetable, so that we don't drift aimlessly from one year to the next without accomplishing things and without making clear progress."

Source: "Defense Department Directive on Equal Opportunity." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 14-15.

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