By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 30, 2022) -- The Defense Department provides broad opportunities for service members and civilians alike, but more can be done to increase the diversity of those holding DOD positions, including Hispanic citizens, said the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
"The department offers a variety of career opportunities in and out of uniform that span from astronomy, to nuclear science, to human resources and education -- not to mention the vast array of opportunities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, which are in great demand," Gilbert Cisneros said at the 19th National LATINA Symposium's Distinguished Military Service Awards.
Cisneros also serves as the DOD's chief diversity officer, and he told the audience that he wants future generations of young people to see the Defense Department as a model employer and want to serve their country in uniform or as DOD civilian employees. But he also said the department must do more to increase the diversity of those who choose to serve in either capacity.
While Hispanics are well represented in the enlisted force, the same can't be said across the board, he said.
"We still need more improvement in Hispanic representation in our officer corps and especially in our general and flag officers," he said. Within the civilian workforce, he said, there is also a discrepancy in Hispanic representation.
"While the DOD has made progress in increasing the presence of Hispanics in the Department of Defense military and civilian ranks, there is still much work to be accomplished. This is where I need your help," Cisneros said, calling on Hispanic symposium attendees to represent military service in their communities.
"To each of you in this room, as an influencer in your community, I call upon you to help increase awareness for what the Department of Defense has to offer by sharing with young people the value of public service, particularly service to our country, either in the military ranks or as a civilian servant," Cisneros said. "DOD will do its part to build more inclusive cultures and communities that work together to influence constructive change."
Charmane S. Johnson, who serves as DOD's director of policy for special emphasis programs, touted the size of the U.S. military and the significance of its mission.
"For those who are not aware, DOD is the biggest employer in the United States with a total force population of approximately 2.5 million military service members and over 900,000 civilians," she said. "We are also the largest government agency, we own the most land, and we are the biggest part of the president's budget. And, not to mention, we have the best mission in the world -- at least in my opinion -- because we get to solve problems no one else can, and that makes DOD a pretty exciting place to work."
For DOD to maintain the successes it already has, Johnson said, it needs something else: diversity.
"We need talent from every community in America to help us get the job done," she said.
At the symposium's awards ceremony, about two dozen Hispanic women from all branches of the military, both uniformed and civilian, were recognized for service to the Defense Department. Johnson asked all those in attendance to look to those women to see how diversity is helping the DOD accomplish its mission.
"As we learn more about their accomplishments, I hope you will also take note of the vast opportunities to grow and excel in DOD, whether in uniform or as a civil servant," Johnson said. "As we celebrate this great heritage month for many years to come, we hope to tell even more successful stories, like how women, especially women of color, many in this room, how they will be seated at the table and represented in senior ranks at the same rate as their male counterparts."
Johnson said DOD recognizes the importance of diversity, including Hispanic women, to its mission, and failure to recognize that will be detrimental to its mission.
"DOD will continue to play a role in advancing equity in Hispanic communities because we understand that readiness requires people, and, when talent is marginalized, organizations lose," she said.
The 19th National LATINA Symposium Distinguished Military Service Awards event was held during National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.