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NEWS | Aug. 1, 2011

Air Force Chief of Staff speaks on diversity at NAACP dinner

By Alicia Garges Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz spoke about the importance of diversity at the NAACP's Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner here July 26.

The banquet was one of several events held in conjunction with the group's annual convention and coincided with the 63rd anniversary of the executive order desegregating the military.

"As a nation, we are benefitting from having recognized the value of meaningful diversity," Schwartz said during an address to the attendees.

While earlier equal opportunity programs focused on race and gender, the current diversity movement looks beyond demographic considerations, the general said.

"We know that our strength is drawn from diverse perspectives that develop from different backgrounds -- to name a few: socioeconomic, educational, geographic, philosophical and spiritual," he said.

Ensuring Air Force working environments are conducive to equal opportunity and fostering diversity of perspectives in the service will lead to enhanced performance and effectiveness, Schwartz said.

"Our next challenge will be to identify more clearly how this is done and how we can measure our progress," the general said

Recently, the service formed the Air Force Diversity Committee, a senior-level working group chartered to find ways to leverage and better manage diversity, Schwartz said.

According to the general, diversity should not be an end unto itself, but rather a means toward a broader desired state of enhanced effectiveness for the Air Force and its overall mission. Schwartz pointed out that in academic literature, diversity management has been defined as the systematic and planned commitment on the part of organizations to recruit and retain employees from diverse demographic backgrounds.

"Note the open-ended sense of the phrase 'diverse demographic backgrounds,' which suggests that it is possible for any number of people, even of the same gender and race, to still have widely differing demographic backgrounds," Schwartz said.

"Therefore managing diversity, I would argue, also implies -- as well as important considerations of race, gender and ethnicity -- a more active recognition and appreciation of the increasingly multicultural nature of contemporary organizations," he said.

The Air Force's diversity efforts focus on institutionalizing diversity throughout the service and allowing for the recruitment, development and retention of a highly-qualified and talented total force, Schwartz said.

"As we approach this challenge, we will consider ways in which we can engage every Airman -- officer, enlisted, and civilian -- across the total force as participants in this process, and encourage them to share in the responsibility for ensuring that the talents and capabilities of each individual are mutually respected, valued and applied toward enhancing mission accomplishment," Schwartz said.

Commanders and supervisors at all levels will be taking the lead in advancing diversity priorities, deepening the lines of communication and taking a personal interest in orchestrating individual success of others whose potential to serve the Air Force so values, he said.

"Your Air Force embraces the fundamental value of a diverse workforce, whose individual members, while possessing different backgrounds and perspectives, are singularly bound in common cause, lending their creativity, energy and dedication to the betterment of our mission and our nation's security," he said.