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No Promotion Unless A Commitment To Diversity Is Demonstrated, Air Force Sec Says

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James has decided to celebrate Women’s History Month by announcing a set of nine initiatives to increase diversity and inclusiveness in the service. The most notable is a new requirement that unless those aspiring to leadership roles can demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, they will not be considered for promotion.

James first declared the changes on Wednesday during a “Women and Leadership in National Security” conference at the Center for a New American Security, and justified the new initiatives by proclaiming, “There’s simply no country in the world as widely diverse as the U.S.”

According to James, while there’s been some movement toward diversity in the past, it hasn’t been enough. This new strategy will ensure that the service is able to continue to attract the most talented and able minds. Career-field-development team chairs are now required to conduct analyses to figure out what is blocking “airmen from reaching their highest levels of performance,” as James put it, according to Air Force Times.

Out of all services in the military, the Air Force has the highest percentage of women at 18.9 percent, but the female attrition rate is twice that of the male attrition rate during “mid-career phase.”

One of the initiatives coming to the forefront will allow “top performers” to take up to three years off without risking prospects for future promotion. Additionally, James wants to see more women take up the role of pilot, as this job category is usually dominated by men. But because the exclusion occurs as a result of height requirements — that is, a standing height of 64 to 77 inches and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches — James has elected to modify the waiver process. Previously, the waiver could only be offered to Air Force Academy Cadets, but James will expand the process to include Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, meaning that 900 women will now be eligible to become pilots.

For James, women should constitute more than the 25 percent of the applicant pool thy already are. Instead, that rate should be boosted to 30 percent.

“This is not just about how we look. It’s about our readiness. It’s about our capabilities today and for the future. It’s about how we are going to perform as an Air Force… in this very uncertain geopolitical environment,” James stated at the conference.

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