The Army Lawyer | Issue 5 2021View PDF
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The 40th Judge Advocate General of the Army, Lieutenant General (LTG) Charles N. Pede, established the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI Council) on 17 July 2020. One of the purposes of this Council is to enable each member of our regiment to help shape the future of our JAG Corps.1 Leveraging the Department of Defense’s ongoing efforts to address diversity and inclusion2 and, in part, the media blitz and civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd,3 LTG Pede acted swiftly and established the DEI Council to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Army JAG Corps. He directed the DEI Council to take a comprehensive look at our regiment to determine if we were an inclusive organization that validates “our commitment to what is right, fair, and just” in our efforts to take care of our Soldiers, Civilians, and Family members.4 To accomplish this with any degree of authenticity or resolve, LTG Pede realized “[t]he voices of our Corps, from around the world, must be heard.”5 Moreover, he acknowledged that “[h]ow we [as members of the regiment] value each other—and how we each perceive the resulting treatment—matters” and “how we treat each other [ultimately] reflects our [core] values.”6

Once established, the DEI Council initially engaged in a series of internal listening sessions to gain perspective on the full scope and depth of the issues and concerns surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion that it needed to address. Council members were also eager to educate themselves on those topics, come to a common understanding of those terms,7 and fully comprehend the distinction between equality and equity.8 The DEI Council next conducted a series of voluntary listening sessions with groups of Judge Advocate Legal Services (JALS) personnel from around the globe to amplify their voices. Each of these sessions were exceptionally valuable, generating open and frank dialogue among the participants. These sessions provided the DEI Council with a much broader understanding of issues affecting diversity, equity, and inclusion that members of our Corps believe exist.9 All JALS members were further encouraged to participate in an anonymous survey to address their concerns.10 Coupled with the results of the survey and information and comments received during various panel discussions with representatives from diverse groups, including civilians, enlisted personnel, retired judge advocates, informal mentorship groups, and the JAGC Pride network,11 the DEI Council believed it was sufficiently enlightened to move forward in addressing many diversity, equity, and inclusion matters affecting the Army JAG Corps.

The DEI Council then began focusing on the task to propose—with the help of subordinate advisory boards from the field—its own ideas for making “our organization more inclusive of . . . diversity”12 by looking initially at six areas: recruiting and accessions, training and education, retention, promotions, assignments, and obstacles to inclusion.13 As the best source of input across the regiment, these subordinate advisory boards (i.e., Field Boards), would assist the DEI Council in reviewing, studying, and analyzing these initial focus areas. Armed with all of this information, the DEI Council could effectively identify and assess problems and opportunities, and then recommend solutions.14

Developing the Field Boards

The DEI Council appointed a Field Board committee to propose the best structure for and internal operation of the Field Boards. The committee extensively analyzed and debated the most effective and efficient way to establish representative and diverse groups from across the regiment to form Field Boards and begin addressing the six focus areas. The committee considered, among other things, the following before presenting options to the DEI Council for a decision:

  1. Whether to seek only volunteers or allow staff judge advocates (SJA), deputy staff judge advocates (DSJA), command paralegal noncommissioned officers (NCO), or senior civilians to submit names and recommend Field Board members;
  2. Whether volunteers submit their application directly to the DEI Council, or require vetting through the SJA, DSJA, command paralegal NCO, or senior civilian;
  3. Whether the DEI Council should establish eligibility criteria;
  4. Whether applicants should provide relevant demographic information, including race, gender, sexual orientation, and geographic location to ensure maximum diversity within each Field Board;
  5. Whether to require a maximum or minimum size for each Field Board;
  6. Whether to require a maximum or minimum length of service on a Field Board;
  7. Whether the DEI Council should limit the number of Field Boards to ensure its ability to monitor progress;
  8. Whether a member of the DEI Council would participate on each Field Board to facilitate discussions;
  9. Whether to create only geographic boards to maximize attendance during meetings;
  10. Whether to create only rank/grade boards to generate better, more open discussions;
  11. Whether to establish geographic boards by rank/grade;
  12. Whether subject matter experts or DEI Council members would instruct each Field Board on the six focus areas;
  13. Whether Field Boards should address all the focus areas during meetings or address each issue separately; and
  14. Whether Field Boards meet weekly, monthly, or other.

The Field Board committee focused on ensuring three main tenets for the effective use of the Field Boards. First, the Field Board must be structured to ensure autonomy, but still remain under the overall direction of the DEI Council. Second, the Field Board must be designed to ensure every member of the JALS has a legitimate opportunity to participate as a member of a Field Board at some point. Third, the Field Board must be structured and designed to elicit candid feedback and facilitate open, honest conversations among Field Board members.

Organizing the Field Boards

The DEI Council accepted most of the Field Board committee’s recommendations, including its recommendation to develop an online application to facilitate a worldwide call for volunteers to serve on a Field Board. The online application ensured the compliance with The Judge Advocate General’s expressed desire to receive input from the voices across JALS. The application form was basic, yet sufficiently comprehensive to obtain the applicant’s relevant information regarding race, gender, technical supervisory chain, and geographic location. The application also allowed volunteers to briefly describe their desire to serve on a Field Board.15 While informative, the brief description did not impact a volunteer’s participation on the Field Board. Due to the number of applications received, the DEI Council established nine Field Boards to accommodate all volunteers.16

The Field Boards were organized into ten to fifteen member groups according to rank/grade.17 The DEI Council agreed this structure would foster the greatest communication among Field Board members. The DEI Council, however, remains open to reconfigure the Field Board structure if necessary to maintain the efficacy of the Field Boards. Council members were then assigned to assist each Field Board as the Council’s designated points of contact for enduring support, and tasked to schedule an initial meeting with their respective Field Board.

The DEI Council elected to relinquish control over the internal direction and governance of the Field Boards, thereby promoting the maximum amount of autonomy and ingenuity for board members to identify and assess problems effectively and to offer noteworthy solutions. The goal is not to micromanage the Field Boards’ freedom of thought, expression, or creativity.18 The DEI Council points of contact, therefore, only participated in the initial meeting with each Field Board to explain their duty in analyzing the six focus areas, establish basic ground rules, recommend a listening session for their first meeting, and instruct the board to identify a Field Board leader and deputy leader.19

Field Board Ground Rules20

Each Field Board is governed by the same ground rules:

  1. Every Field Board member is to be respected, whether you agree or disagree;
  2. Every Field Board member has a valuable opinion;
  3. Every Field Board member needs to be heard;
  4. Every Field Board member must be considerate of others;
  5. All Field Board members should feel comfortable in sharing their experiences or opinions;
  6. Disrespect for opinions of others is grounds for removal from the Field Board; and
  7. Field Board members are on equal footing during Field Board discussions when voicing opinions or voting on matters—a difference in rank/grade does not equate to a more valuable opinion.

The DEI Council understands these basic rules serve to reinforce the value of all JALS members and their diversity of thoughts and opinions. To be effective in addressing the six focus areas and provide meaningful feedback, Field Boards members must treat each other with the inherent dignity and respect due every person.21

Field Board Meetings and Battle Rhythm

The Field Boards’ primary responsibility is to discuss, analyze, assess, and recommend solutions to the DEI Council on matters affecting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the JAG Corps in the six focus areas.22 The Field Board leaders and deputy leaders were encouraged to utilize any appropriate medium (e.g., Microsoft Teams or Zoom) to conduct meetings. The meeting schedule was up to each Field Board; however, the DEI Council recommended a minimum of two meetings per topic area to ensure suitable discussion on these important issues.

The goal is for Field Boards to have sufficient time to understand the issue and time to meet and discuss each issue. Realizing the significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion across our formations, however, the desire for swift action had to be tempered with the desire for deliberate and comprehensive review of each topic. The DEI Council, therefore, established a two-month battle rhythm for the Field Boards for each of the six focus areas.

During week one, the Field Boards receive a substance briefing from a subject matter expert who explains the topic in detail and outlines the current status, or implementation, of the topic area within the JALS. Field Board members are free to ask questions and engage in discussion with the subject matter expert during the meeting. These meetings are also recorded for the benefit of those board members unable to attend the live meeting.

During weeks two through seven, Field Boards are instructed to meet as often as necessary to engage in meaningful discourse while evaluating the topic and to begin formulating input for the DEI Council. Board members, through their respective Field Board leader, are free to seek additional information from their points of contact on the DEI Council as necessary throughout this period. The goal for each Field Board is to work as a team and hone feedback on the most salient points for the DEI Council to consider.

During week seven, Field Board leaders are required to compile notes from the monthly meetings and submit reports to their respective DEI Council points of contact. Each Field Board is required to submit a presentation with four to five focus points for the Council to consider. For each point, the Field Board provides a brief discussion and then sets forth its recommended solutions.

The DEI Council then schedules a meeting with each Field Board leader to discuss the recommendations. During this meeting, the Field Board not only presents its issues and recommendations on the topic but also provides additional, unsolicited comments, observations, and recommendations for the Field Board to consider and address.

Anticipating the Future of Field Boards

At this time, the Field Boards have addressed and submitted reports on the first focus area of recruiting and accessions. The DEI Council met with the Field Boards to discuss their recommendations and the Council will begin meeting to analyze and discuss those recommendations. The Field Boards have also received their subject matter expert presentation on the second focus areas—training and education—and will commence internal meetings to address the topic.

The outstanding input received from each Field Board during its presentation is a clear indication of the tremendous effort by Field Board members to make a difference. This effort also proves LTG Pede’s decision to use subordinate advisory boards to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion was profound. Since assuming duties as the 41st Judge Advocate General of the Army, Lieutenant General Stuart W. Risch has reaffirmed the Corps’s commitment to continue this comprehensive look at our regiment and work to ensure that we are, in fact, an inclusive organization that validates and takes care of our Soldiers, Civilians, and Family members, and always strives to do what is right, fair, and just.23

Accordingly, it is now time for others to step forward and volunteer to participate on a Field Board. The DEI Council has not had to place any limits on participation, other than a desire to participate. As a member of the JALS you have a voice and your voice does matter! Your willingness and a bit of courage to highlight and discuss issues affecting diversity, equity, and inclusion within our Corps could make a difference.

While the Field Boards continue to analyze the remaining focus areas of our Corps, JALS members may have knowledge of practices that support and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, which are essential for our shared understanding. This knowledge or input may enable our JAG Corps not only to adjust or change current or past practices but also to develop new initiatives. Your voice, your input, your knowledge could keep us on the correct path to remain the best law firm in the world. TAL


COL Hamilton is the Chief, Environmental Law Division, U.S. Army Legal Services Agency, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He is also a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.


Notes

1. Memorandum from The Judge Advoc. Gen., U.S. Army, to Judge Advoc. Legal Servs. Pers., subject: Establishment of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (17 July 2020) [hereinafter Establishment of DEI Council Memo].

2. Since at least 1997, the Department of Defense has been mandated to conduct human relations training for all members of the Armed Forces, including race relations, equal opportunity, and opposition to gender discrimination. See National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997, Pub. L. 104-201, § 571, 110 Stat. 2422, 2532 (1996). 10 U.S.C. § 656 also directs the Secretary of Defense to “implement a plan to accurately measure the efforts of the Department of Defense . . . to achieve a dynamic, sustainable level of members of the armed forces (including reserve components) that, among both commissioned officers and senior enlisted personnel of each armed force, will reflect the diverse population of the United States eligible to serve in the armed forces, including gender specific, racial, and ethnic populations.” 10 U.S.C. § 656(a).

3. Alex Altman, Why the Killing of George Floyd Sparked an American Uprising, Time (June 4, 2020, 6:49 AM), https://time.com/5847967/george-floyd-protests-trump/.

4. Establishment of DEI Council Memo, supra note 1.

5. Id.

6. Id.

7. The Army People Strategy, Diversity Equity, and Inclusion Annex defines the key terms:

a. Diversity—All attributes, experiences, cultures, characteristics, and backgrounds of the total force which are reflective of the Nation we serve and enable the Army to deploy, fight, and win.

b. Equity—The fair treatment, access, opportunity, choice, and advancement for all Soldiers and Civilians while striving to identify and encourage drivers and identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of the total force.

c. Inclusion—The process of valuing and integrating each individual’s perspectives, ideas, and contributions into the way an organization functions and makes decisions; enabling workforce members to achieve their full potential in focused pursuit of organizational objectives.

U.S. Dep’t of Army, The Army People Strategy: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Annex 1, at 4 (2020).

8. Most people use these terms interchangeably; however, there is a difference between equality and equity. It is easiest to comprehend the distinction by using an academic analogy. Equality, for example, is providing each student with the same books, supplies, equipment, and instruction, whereas equity seeks the best outcome for each individual student through the appropriate degree of coaching, teaching, mentoring, or accommodation. See Equity in Education, Brothers Acad., https://brothersacademy.org/equity-in-education/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhpW139aG8wIVu-y1Ch0p7Q6tEAAYASAAEgLuZfD_BwE (last visited Nov. 18, 2021).

9. See The Judge Advoc. Gen., U.S. Army, Annual Historical Summary of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army 43–44 (2021) [hereinafter ABA Submission].

10. Off. of The Judge Advoc. Gen., U.S. Army, Defense Organizational Climate Survey (6 Oct. 2020–6 Nov. 2020). See also Karen H. Carlisle et al., The JAG Corps DEI Council Established, Army Law., no. 3, 2021, at 28.

11. ABA Submission, supra note 9, at 43–44.

12. Establishment of DEI Council Memo, supra note 1, para. 3.

13. Establishment of DEI Council Memo, supra note 1.

14. Id.

15. DEI Field Board Application, JAGCnet (Oct. 20, 2020), https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/DivInc.nsf/homeContent.xsp?open&doctype=announcement&documentId=2A21B6764A0FB5FC85258607006556A9.

16. The DEI Council received applications from Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, as well as civilian members of the JALS. Based upon the total number of applicants, the DEI Council deemed separate component boards inappropriate to facilitate the diversity of thought and comprehensive analysis desired for each of the six focus areas.

17. Memorandum from Karen Carlisle, Co-Chair, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council, to Field Board Members, subject: OTJAG Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Field Boards (n.d.) [hereinafter Field Board Members Memo]; JAG Corps Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council Field Board Member Roster, JAGCnet, https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/DivInc.nsf/homeContent.xsp?open&doctype=announcement&documentId=77212AE41FC44337852587030051C159 (last visited Dec. 29, 2021) (field board member assignments are available via login to Department of Defense members). Currently, the nine Field Boards consist of one or more members from the following ranks or grades:

Board One—Colonel, Chief Warrant Officer Five, Command Sergeant Major or Sergeant Major, Grade Series 15;

Board Two—Lieutenant Colonel, Master Sergeant, Grade Series 14;

Board Three and Board Four—Major, Chief Warrant Officer Three, Grade Series 12, Grade Series 11;

Board Five, Board Six, and Board Seven—Captain, First Lieutenant, Chief Warrant Officer Two, Warrant Officer One, Grade Series 12, Grade Series 11;

Board Eight—Sergeant First Class, Staff Sergeant, Grade Series 9; and

Board Nine—Sergeant, Specialist, Private First Class, Grade Series 7.

18. Field Board Members Memo, supra note 17.

19. The Field Board leader and Field Board deputy leader assume primary responsibility for ensuring the Field Board complies with its official purpose to assist the DEI Council in recommending ideas to make our organization more inclusive of diversity. See supra note 13 and accompanying text; Establishment of DEI Council Memo, supra note 1.

20. The DEI Council agreed the Field Boards should follow the governing principles established for listening sessions conducted across the Army JAG Corps concerning respect and consideration of others.

21. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Doctrine Pub. 6-22, Army Leadership and the Profession para. 2-14 (31 July 2019) (C1, 25 Nov. 2019).

22. See supra note 13 and accompanying text (Recruiting and Accessions, Training and Education, Retention, Promotions, Assignments, and Obstacles to Inclusion). Establishment of DEI Council Memo, supra note 1.

23. The Judge Advoc. Gen. & Deputy Judge Advoc. Gen., TJAG & DJAG Sends, Vol. 41-01—Message to the Regiment (12 July 2021) (“People are and will remain [our] #1 priority.”).

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