The Air Force Materiel Command continues to amplify efforts to ensure all Airmen; uniformed and non-uniformed, have the right environment and opportunities to achieve and succeed.
Ensuring the current structure is named accordingly for all aspects of opportunity, the command has rebranded the office charged with leading the efforts across the enterprise, resulting in a new “DEIA” acronym that encompasses diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility as mission imperatives.
“The Air Force is pursuing diversity as a mission imperative, recognizing that individuals who think alike might not resolve future complex problem sets,” said Keith Tickle, AFMC DEIA Program lead. “The functions under each aspect of DEIA have operationally existed; today we are bringing them to the forefront in a formalized fashion and in accordance with executive orders, legal requirements, and good standard business practice.”
According to Tickle, the change to the office name was driven by the June 25, 2021, release of the Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. The order establishes the baseline for DEIA policy and mandates federal agencies take steps to remove barriers to equal opportunity while recruiting, training, promoting and retaining a diverse workforce.
“D&I (diversity and inclusion) is an overarching term that has been normalized across industry, but in an effort to look deeper at the components of diversity and inclusion, DEIA now allows those activities that are employed under the previous Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion umbrella to have their own identity,” Tickle said. “Looking at these DEIA functions independently allows greater scrutiny to our processes to ensure activities are addressing quantitatively and qualitatively the underserved communities across the employment spectrum.”
To distinguish between each aspect of DEIA focus efforts, AFMC has defined each as follows:
Diversity: The practice of including the many communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, cultures, and beliefs of the American people, including underserved communities.
Equity: The consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment.
Inclusion: The recognition, appreciation, and use of the talents and skills of employees of all backgrounds.
Accessibility: The design, construction, development, and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs, and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them. Accessibility includes the provision of accommodations and modifications to ensure equal access to employment and participation in activities for people with disabilities; the reduction or elimination of physical and attitudinal barriers to equitable opportunities; a commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities can independently access every outward-facing and internal activity or electronic space; and the pursuit of best practices such as universal design.
While the overall DEIA office mission focus is to, “strive to attract, recruit, develop and retain a high quality, diverse Total Force, ensuring a culture of inclusion in order to leverage the diversity of the nation for strategic advantage in Air Force, joint and coalition operations,” three branches will execute specific diversity management and equal opportunity programs.
Affirmative Employment (DEE): The Affirmative Employment Program Manager will develop action plans, implement, and manage the installation’s Affirmative Employment Program and the Air Force Special Emphasis Programs. This branch includes the Disability Program Manager who will communicate the needs of individuals with disabilities and information relevant to ensuring Air Force compliance with affirmative employment initiatives and federal law, to include barrier and trend analysis and subsequent recommendations for eliminating unlawful employment practices and procedures.
Equal Opportunity (DEH): This office will work to ensure equal opportunity compliance, provide proactive human relations services, and champion the Air Force policy of zero tolerance for unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment for all agency employees, Air Force members, and tenants.
Resource Advocacy (DER): Resource Advocacy will lead strategic communication and other messaging to highlight diversity and inclusion value at the individual, organizational, and operational levels.
“The DEIA office continues to grow and evolve as the mission dictates. However, regardless of our acronym or name, our mission will remain the same: remove all barriers to ensure that all of our Airmen; regardless of military or civilian status, can achieve and succeed,” Tickle said.