The Pentagon’s latest budget request for fiscal year 2024 includes a staggering $114.7 million to fund initiatives focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). This new budget entry comes after the department failed its sixth consecutive annual audit, highlighting the urgent need for change within the organization.
Over the years, the Defense Department’s spending on DEIA has steadily increased. In 2022, they requested $68 million, and in 2023, that number rose to $86.5 million. However, the current budget request marks the most significant investment in DEIA to date.
The Pentagon’s Defense Budget Overview emphasizes its commitment to DEIA, stating that the funds will be dedicated to activities aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion. They aim to incorporate DEIA values, objectives, and considerations into their operations and missions.
The Biden administration’s Department of Defense is determined to ensure that DEIA initiatives permeate the entire workforce. Their Strategic Management Plan for fiscal years 2022-2026 outlines five goals and 13 objectives to further these efforts. These goals include enhancing global joint warfighter capability, promoting workforce inclusivity, fostering a culture of organizational resiliency, expanding equity and equality, and strengthening their commitment to accessibility.
While the Pentagon strives to advance DEIA initiatives, it faces significant challenges. The Strategic Management Plan acknowledges that despite policy changes to encourage diversity, racial/ethnic minority and female representation at senior leadership levels remains low. The DOD recognizes the need for improvement in this area.
However, alongside their efforts in DEIA, the Pentagon recently faced a major setback. They failed their sixth annual audit in a row, revealing significant issues with financial accountability. The audit found that only half of the DOD’s $3.8 trillion in assets and $4 trillion in liabilities could be adequately accounted for. While some components passed, the overall result was far from satisfactory.
The DOD has been required to complete annual audits since the 1990s, but they only began performing them in 2018. Unfortunately, they have not successfully passed any of these audits to date.
Despite this setback, the DOD remains committed to improving its financial management. They acknowledge the progress made since the previous year’s audit and highlight the benefits of their efforts. The DOD’s chief financial officer and undersecretary of defense comptroller, Michael McCord, emphasized the importance of the audit work and its impact on the department’s readiness and ability to support allies and partners.
In summary, the Pentagon’s request for $114.7 million to fund DEIA initiatives in fiscal year 2024 demonstrates its commitment to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. While they face challenges in achieving their goals, they remain dedicated to improving their financial management and creating a more inclusive and accountable organization.