The Navy on Wednesday released nearly 60 recommendations in an attempt to quell racial and gender-based discrimination among its sailors.
The final report of Task Force One Navy – which for six months has scrutinized systemic racism and discrimination in its ranks based on race, sexual orientation and identity, gender and religious beliefs – found that the service needs to do more to address hate speech and a lack of diversity among its top officials.
The report lays out 57 recommendations that span across recruiting, career development and retention, finding that existing efforts, “while admirable in many respects, clearly fell short of adequately addressing the societal challenges of today.”
“We needed to seize this moment to engage in conversations about race, diversity and inclusion within our force more than ever before,” the report states. “We had to have open, honest and necessary conversations across our Navy and take action.”
The report’s release comes as the Pentagon looks to more widely root out white nationalists and other forms of racism and discrimination in the military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first Black Pentagon chief, has pledged to “rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity.”
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday stood up the task force last July to look for ways to remove racial barriers and improve inclusion in the service as well as dismantle barriers to advancement and equalize professional development opportunities.
The group was formed following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, which sparked nationwide protests and demonstrations against racial injustice.
Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, one of the Navy’s few Black admirals, led the task force, which held nearly 300 listening sessions and conducted close to 1,000 online surveys with the fleet.
“Every listening session had the same key themes: respect, empathy, training, skepticism,” Holsey told reporters on Monday.
Skepticism frequently stood out in the sessions, he said.
“There were several sailors who said, ‘Hey, why now? We’re not really sure anything’s gonna happen.’ We told them that . . . sometimes we take our feet off the pedal, sometimes we can lose focus, but we’re very focused at this time here.”
The suggestions that stemmed from the discussions include basic changes, such as adding “Respect” to the Navy’s core values, as well as more complex alterations, like using artificial intelligence to reduce potential bias when selecting sailors for promotion.
The task force called for increased transparency in how the Navy chooses people for promotion and top assignments by revealing more statistics about such advancements. Details about race, ethnicity and gender should now be shown as it would “reduce perceptions of favoritism or bias in the selection board process,” according to the report.
In addition, the group recommends that the Navy assess “problematic names” for ships, buildings and streets. Such ships include the USS Chancellorsville, named after a Confederacy victory during the Civil War. The USS John C. Stennis, meanwhile, is an aircraft carrier named after a segregationist senator.
The task force also allowed that while its suggestions are a step in the right direction, not all of them might hit the mark on its intended goals.
“The recommendations might not all be right, but they are recommendations, nonetheless,” the report states. “Recommendations were developed that recognize some systemic inequalities and offer solutions to help our Navy become a more lethal and well-connected warfighting force.”
The Navy, while more diverse than the United States as a whole, struggles with diversity among its highest ranked officers. Out of 219 admirals, only 16 are female, none with four stars, and only six are Black, none with more than two stars.
“Our Navy must continue to remove barriers to service, and most importantly, be a shining example of a workforce centered on respect, inclusive of all. Simply put, all Sailors – uniformed and civilian – and applicants for accession to the Navy must be treated with dignity and respect above all else,” Gilday said in a statement ahead of the report’s release.
He added that there is “still work to be done,” but he is “confident that this report’s recommendations will help make our Navy better, and we will move forward together towards meaningful long-lasting change.”
The Navy does not yet have a timeline for implementing the task force’s recommendations, as Gilday must first sign off on the proposals before the service will “move out full speed ahead” to implement them, according to a fact sheet on the report.
“Some of the recommendations may require a delayed or phased approach to achieve their desired goals due to the complexity of the recommendation,” the fact sheet notes.