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Department of the Air Force leaders discuss second disparity review during virtual town hall

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --

Department of the Air Force leaders — Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman, and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass — hosted a virtual town hall Sept. 16 to discuss the findings of the second disparity review, which was released Sept. 9.

The second Inspector General Independent Racial Disparity Review focused on gender and ethnicity, and included additional racial groups (Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders). It also referenced and compared data from the prior report on racial disparity, involving Black/African American Airmen and Guardians.

Kendall explained in his opening remarks, that these reviews are the “start of a journey” to improve the quality of life for Guardians and Airmen.

“The review confirms there are disparities, the question for us is what do you do about it, and how do you improve the situation,” he said. “This is the start of the process, not the end of it.”

As stated in the summary of the findings, IG personnel analyzed existing information, such as military justice data dating back to 2012, and listened to Airmen and Guardians directly. They analyzed individual perspectives from a department-wide IG disparity survey that garnered more than 100,000 responses, plus almost 17,000 single-spaced pages of feedback from Airmen, Guardians and civilians.

Bass said Airmen and Guardians trusted leadership enough to share their experiences, and the job of leadership is to hear their stories, hold themselves accountable, and be better wingmen. Her goal is to create accountability from both the enterprise level and the unit level.

“As CMSAF, it’s not lost on me what my role and my responsibility in that position is, which is really to make sure that we are focused ... on making sure that our culture and climate in the USAF is one that every single Airman … can thrive and reach their full potential and be their best,” she said.

With the high volume of responses brought forth, the department’s leadership is striving to make the changes necessary to create an all-inclusive force.

“The key thing I am focused on is providing all of our Airmen and Guardians the opportunity to compete and serve in positions they desire,” said Brown. “We also want to get people to the senior level on the officer and enlisted side, because all of us want to look up and see somebody that looks like us to open the door for future opportunities.”

The under secretary expressed similar sentiments and stressed the importance of having diversity in the workplace.
“This is not just about diversity or inclusion for diversity and inclusion sake, it’s because each of those things contribute to our readiness,” Jones said. “We need talent as diverse as the opportunities and challenges that we face as a country.”

As the newest department, the Space Force has used lessons learned from the Air Force, and has been able to incorporate them into planning since the beginning of the force.

“As we look at the data that came out of these reports, it became clear the Space Force isn’t immune to the disparities and as we continue to build the service, this data is extremely important,” Raymond said. “It’s helping us form our Guardian ideals, shape our values [and] develop strategies for recruiting. … We are fully committed to having a more diverse force, because we know a more diverse force is a more ready force.”

Towberman said diversity is attracted to inclusion. His goal is to work on inclusion and ensuring barriers are removed to attracting team-centric, innovative, imaginative people to an organization purposed to protect the world, keep the nation safe, and ensure liberties and freedoms.

“I can’t change hearts and minds if I don’t first understand hearts and minds, and I can’t understand anything if I’m not willing to listen,” Towberman said. “This is about having conversations, about working together to get through it. We can’t do that if we shut anyone down.”

To hear the Department of the Air Force’s senior leader Disparity Review Town Hall in its entirety visit here.

For more information, download the progress update report here, the second report findings here, and the summary of the second disparity review here.