The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has just issued its “Department of Defense Equity Action Plan” [PDF, 21 pages]. This plan, according to the accompanying summary [PDF, 8 pages], was issued “Pursuant to Executive Order 13985 [PDF, 9 pages] (January 20, 2021) on ‘Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government’ ”.
The Executive Order defines “equity” as follows.
The term “equity” means 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, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
That’s eighty words to define a term for which Dr Johnson, excepting a specialised legal meaning, required only four.
- Justice; right; honesty.
not perceiving a need to identify those to whom the word applied, as opposed to those to whom it doesn’t. For its part, the DOD “Plan” never defines “equity” at all, although it does provide a full page of definitions of acronyms including:
- DEPSCoR — Defense Establish Program to Stimulate Competitive Research
- HUBZone — Historically Underutilized Business Zone
- MCCYN — Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood
- NALEMP — Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program
- PFAS — Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
- TTPTTP — Taking the Pentagon to the People
- WOSB — Woman-Owned Small Business
As an indication how far the quest for equity has come since the days of yore when the Marine Corps was “looking for a few good men”:
Finally, DoD policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or identification as transgender, provides a means by which individuals who meet applicable standards may access into the military in their self-identified gender, provides a means by which transitioning Service members may obtain gender-affirming medical treatment and recognition of their self-identified gender, and seeks to protect the privacy of all Service members. The Department is taking steps to fully implement this policy.
And lest you think these policies are limited to humans and their myriad and mutable genders, there is:
Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development: Become a leader on equitable AI research and development through programs such as Artificial Social Intelligence for Successful Teams, Grounded AI Language Acquisition Research, and Guaranteeing AI Robustness Against Deception.
Among the items listed in the “Summary of Accomplishments” section is:
Throughout the Department, numerous equity-related achievements or successes have been accomplished which relate to the five actions in this plan. For example, in February 2021, Secretary Austin directed commanding officers and supervisors at all levels to conduct a one-day “stand down” for discussion of the principle that all those who support DoD’s mission deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment. This included a focus on how extremist or dissident ideologies violate the fundamental principles of the Department. Shortly thereafter, DoD took steps to ensure transgender individuals who wished to serve in the military and could meet the appropriate standards were able to do so openly and free from discrimination
With the U.S. military having secured the borders, brought peace and prosperity to the many corners of the world in which its forces are stationed, developed and deployed cutting-edge weapon systems on time, under budget, and in quantity, and demonstrating leadership to the world in such areas as ship collisions, submarines running into undersea mountains, and pregnancy among naval crews, I suppose it is to be expected that its focus will turn to other clamant priorities such as “equity” and “climate change”. But I suspect that observing that these matters have precious little to do with deterring, fighting, or winning wars might get one labeled as one of those extremists or dissidents which “violate [its] fundamental principles”.