Fitzpatrick, Turner introduce Diversity in Defense Act

In an effort to improve diversity and inclusion within the U.S. armed services, U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Mike Turner (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Diversity in Defense Act this week.

“It is critical that the forces that protect our nation also reflect the diversity of our country,” said Rep. Turner.

The Diversity in Defense Act, H.R. 8099, is a group of several diversity and inclusion provisions, all of which are included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, H.R. 6395, which passed the House of Representatives in July. House and Senate negotiators are working to resolve their differing versions of the FY 2021 NDAA.

The inclusion of the amendments in the broader NDAA represents one of the most significant steps towards diversity and inclusion that Congress has taken since the desegregation of the armed forces in 1948, Rep. Fitzpatrick’s office noted.

“As an FBI Supervisory Special Agent, I saw firsthand that diversity is incredibly important and can contribute so much to any organization’s mission. Our armed forces have always led the way, and we should be doing everything we can to foster an even more inclusive military,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said.

The basis for many of the diversity and inclusion provisions found in the FY 2021 NDAA stems from recommendations submitted by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission in 2011.

The legislation includes a range of provisions aimed at increasing diversity, including requiring that a Chief Diversity Officer be appointed at the Department of Defense and in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. It also would establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council within the Department of Defense and would create an Office of the Special Inspector General for Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Armed Forces.

Additionally, diversity reporting would be improved under the bill by requiring branches of the armed forces to send yearly and quadrennial reports to Congress about enlistment statistics. Demographics on officers appointed to certain grades across all branches also would be included in reports to Congress, among other provisions.

“I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will make our military—the greatest fighting force in the world—even better,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said.

Reps. Turner and Fitzpatrick introduced H.R. 8099 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) and six other original cosponsors.

“We must achieve diversity within the ranks of our military, and these provisions are strong steps towards achieving that goal,” Rep. Turner added. “I will continue to advocate for the inclusion of this bill throughout the conference process of the NDAA.”