The Air Force and Diversity: The Awkward Embrace
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL AIR FORCE RESEARCH INST
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The Air Force is pursuing diversity as a mission imperative, recognizing that individuals who think alike might not resolve future complex problem sets. These challenges range from unraveling an intelligence problem at the tactical level, through developing a campaign plan against a near-peer competitor at the operational level, to creating policies at the strategic level. Recent efforts have attempted to integrate diversity measures into Air Force culture, including Air Force instructions to codify diversity as a military necessity. Most Airmen, however, are more likely to view diversity as another top-down initiative accompanied by computer-based training, checklists, and rules-based compliance rather than recognizing it as a game changer for the Air Force. Even those who discern that diversity is important for the mission are often unable to articulate why this is so. The few who realize its importance or recognize groupthink in their inner circle often do so late in their careers. Discordance exists between Air Force intentions vis- -vis diversity and any effective programs and policies to retain and develop a diverse cadre of senior leadership. Issues lie ahead for the service, from retaining key demographic populations to inculcating diversity s importance to mission success. This article addresses such a key demographic active duty women officers as an exemplar of the Air Force s retention challenges with diverse groups. Nevertheless, the data reflects that many of the conclusions are equally valid or comparable for other minority groups. Even though the service has initiated formal diversity efforts, recommended policy and development programs may help develop and retain competent officers across the board.
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