Pride Month is a time to come together to honor the contributions of LGBTQ+ service members, said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks, who spoke today at the 11th LBGTQ+ Pride Ceremony at the Pentagon. As President Joe Biden recently stated, Pride Month is a time to remind the LGBTQ+ community that they are valued and deserve dignity, respect and support, she said. The Defense Department strives to lead on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, including for LGBTQ+ people, she said. “DOD is committed to ensuring and promoting an atmosphere of dignity and respect for all civilian and military personnel. We strive to make the Department of Defense a workplace of choice for all Americans willing and qualified to serve. In doing so, we set a bedrock foundation where all personnel are valued and given an equal opportunity to succeed,” she said. Recruiting, developing and retaining a highly skilled military and civilian workforce of diverse talent is essential to U.S. warfighting success, she said. “The department should not and cannot be a place that discourages outstanding LGBTQ+ individuals from a career in DOD because of actual or perceived barriers to entry or hostile workplace conditions,” she said. A group of people wearing fitness attire crowd together and throw different colored powders into the air.
In September 2011, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed, allowing LGBTQ+ service members and civilians to acknowledge their sexual orientation and serve openly. In September, DOD commemorated the 10-year anniversary of that repeal, she said. “We will continue to advance policies and programs to develop and nurture a leadership pipeline of diverse talent and create pathways for everyone at DOD to realize their potential. We know that organizational climates affect our workforces’ experiences. More to the point, it affects our warrior readiness. Therefore, we are directing initiatives to improve leaders’ skill development and foster more effective, inclusive team environments,” she said. The department is developing a diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility strategic plan to guide and direct activities to further those initiatives within the department, she said. That plan is in the final stages of approval and will identify DOD’s priorities and objectives for the coming year, she said.