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Laird, Melvin R. "Equal Opportunity and Race Relations in the Department of Defense." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 1-2.

SuDoc No.: D2.15/2

Article written by then Secretary of Defense, Melvin R. Laird touting the improvements of race relations in the military.


Equal Opportunity and Race Relations in the Department of Defense.

By Melvin R. Laird, Secretary of Defense

Each year Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird presents a Defense Department Report to Congress. In his report last year, he said, "Let me candidly tell you that we face some formidable problems in the manpower area that are not going to be solved overnight. In addition to complex recruiting and retention problems, we share with the rest of American society the agonizing problems related to race relations... We in the Department of Defense are determined to continue leading the way, as best we can, in seeking solutions to these difficult problems.

"The Department of Defense," he reiterated, "is committed to the goal of making military and civilian service in the Department a model of equal opportunity for all.

"In all my trips to military installations in the U.S. and overseas," Mr. Laird added, "I have made it a point to talk with thousands of our enlisted men and women. I have sought particularly to get their views and the views of their commanders on what more needs to be done to improve equal opportunity in the Armed Forces." These and other efforts, he pointed out, resulted in a changed DoD policy on equal opportunity and race relations. In his Defense Report this year (Feb. 15, 1972), Secretary Laird outlined some of the progress made in these areas. Here are excerpts from his statement.


Source: Laird, Melvin R. "Equal Opportunity and Race Relations in the Department of Defense." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 1-2.


As we continue to translate the principle of equal opportunity established by the Department's Human Goals statement into programs designed to increase the quality of military life, we have relied heavily upon methodologies designed to improve communications while yielding visible, measurable progress.

During the past year, the Military Departments and Defense Agencies initiated important new policies, including the setting of the numerical goals and timetables for minority employment. To invigorate managerial interest and compliance with the equal opportunity program, each military and civilian manager's performance rating now includes an assessment of his effectiveness in this crucial area. We have also undertaken a detailed review of our equal opportunity grievance system.

The tangible results of these and earlier policies can be judged by advancements made by minority-group members within the Department of Defense. These advancements are especially noteworthy because they occurred during a period when the total manpower strength was declining.

On the civilian side, since Nov. 30, 1969, the numbers of minority-group members in senior management positions (GS-13 through 15) have risen as follows: blacks by 9.2 per cent, from 977 to 1,067; Spanish-surnamed personnel by 15.6 per cent, from 262 to 303; and Orientals by 6.2 per cent, from 451 to 479.

In the Military Services, the number of individuals of minority groups holding the top enlisted grades has shown a steady increase. Programs have been developed to increase the number in hard-skill job fields.

In the officer corps of the Services, six of the officers selected for general or flag rank were from minority groups, and we continue to increase the input of junior officers from minority groups through intensified recruiting.

Seven predominantly black colleges have been added to the Reserve Officers Training Corps program, bringing the number of such schools participating in the program to 26. At the Service Academies, the current minority enrollment total is 463. The 185 in the entering classes alone exceed the number of minority graduates during the preceding decade.

Progress in securing the right of all military personnel to available off-base housing has continued. During the past year the program was extended to overseas areas. In the United States, as of December 1971, 98 per cent of over 36,000 multi-unit rental facilities surveyed were pledged to a policy of non-discrimination. During the past two years black military occupancy of these facilities has increased by nearly 50 per cent.

Despite our efforts in the equal opportunity program and growing understanding on the part of most members of the Department of Defense of the gravity of the problem of race relations, we continue to experience a level of disharmony which has the potential for impairing our overall mission. In addition to renewed command emphasis, we are making new efforts to improve communications and understanding among the members of the different races through education.

Education in the dynamics of difference is one of the most important steps the Department of Defense has undertaken. Most people enter military service with insufficient knowledge of, and appreciation for, the culture, history, experience and sensitivities of persons of other races to enable them to function well in a multi-racial environment.

In an effort to bridge the communication gap, on June 24, 1971, I established the Defense Race Relations Institute (DRRI). Located at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, the DRRI graduated its pilot class on Dec. 10, 1971. Students are drawn from the officer and enlisted ranks of the Services. Upon completion of the seven-week course they are returned to their units as race relations instructors.

The Services have introduced ethnic literature, music, foods and cosmetics at commissary and exchange facilities. Sales in excess of $4 million since the inception of this new program in 1970 indicate an increased sensitivity on the part of the Services to the minority serviceman's desires and needs.

Source: Laird, Melvin R. "Equal Opportunity and Race Relations in the Department of Defense." Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 1-2.

The Department has continued to enforce equal opportunity requirements among Defense contractors. During 1971, under DoD compliance review, total minority employment rose in the Nation's five largest textile firms from 21,031 to 31,182, an increase of 48 per cent between 1968 and 1971.

During the same period minority employment gains were achieved by six major DoD aerospace contractors, despite a 29 per cent decline in their work forces... Our minority employment objectives have also been attained in most DoD construction projects.

I have often said that people are our most precious asset. The manpower policies of the Department of Defense will continue to be formulated and carried out with this basic fact always in mind.

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