By Phyllis Brantley, Chief, Diversity, National Guard Bureau

NEARLY HALF a century ago, executive orders were issued to address affirmative action in federal agencies and mandate Special Emphasis Programs Groups to proactively promote a diversified workforce. Most recently, President Obama’s Executive Order 13583 set the stage for further progress in the field of diversity.

For well over a decade, the National Guard, an employer for both military and civilians, promoted diversity as essential to mission readiness. With the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 13, coupled with the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) recommendations, the National Guard has a stronger foundation to promote diversity initiatives that impact its policies and programs.

Our diversity initiatives begin with senior leadership engagement nationally through three major initiatives: the Joint Diversity Executive Council (JDEC), State Diversity Councils, and the Field Engagement Program. Senior leaders from the JDEC provide recommendations to help leverage the National Guard’s diverse workforce, sustain a workforce climate of equity, and foster an environment where individuals have the opportunity to prosper and effectively advance their careers. A short while ago, the JDEC approved strategies that effect change in policies to promote inclusive hiring and promotion opportunities.

We have also established State Diversity Councils within each state and territory that are responsible for developing and executing state charters and strategic plans. In addition, the implementation of our Field Engagement program, chaired by General Officers, helps facilitate diversity and inclusion communication from the bottom up.

As we continue stressing the importance of an inclusive workforce, it is time for a systematic application of diversity concepts to the business of our organization, viewing diversity as something more than a moral imperative or a business necessity—but as an opportunity. We see this as fully utilizing our most precious resource—our people. Aligning diversity with the mission and business of the organization increases employee satisfaction and retention, improves competitiveness and productivity, and adds value to the sustainment of our National Guard.