Diversity and inclusion are as important to the Department of State’s ability to conduct diplomacy as they are to the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation.
At a City Hall meeting at the Pentagon for the Department’s Industrial Community, Stacy A. Cummings, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Conservation, met with Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the State Department’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, to discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion to the success of their respective agencies.
“The [secretary of defense] looks at the department and leads through values. And diversity, equity and inclusion are part of our values ââas a country and our values ââas a department, âsaid Cummings. “His intention is for us to incorporate this into our work and everything we do. It is a strategic imperative and it is critical to the success and fulfillment of the mission that diversity and inclusion be included in our strategies.”
Cummings said the Department of Defense leaders were challenged by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to harness the strength of the entire force, including military personnel, civilians and industrial partners in the acquisition and maintenance community.
“Personally, I think about diversity and inclusion from a talent competition perspective,” said Cummings. âIn order for us toâ¦ achieve the best possible skills, we need a structure and an environment that encompasses the entirety of the United States and the capabilities of our allies and partners. The best skills, the best skills, the best thoughts, the best innovations the only way for us to achieve this is to encourage everyone to compete for part of our team. “
If diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of defense leader decision-making, Cummings said, the best people will be part of not only the A&S team, but also part of the teams that make up the industry partners provide the skills for warriors. Diverse teams, she said, are developing different ideas that can better help the department keep the nation safe.
We can only do that if we create an environment that is open to everyone, so that … not just a seat at the table, but a voice – and actually being able to share their thoughts. ”
Stacy A. Cummings, who is the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Conservation
These diverse ideas, she said, correspond to the call for innovation and modernization at the center of the president’s preliminary national security strategy.
“It is very much focused on bringing innovation and modernization to an affordable way so that we can balance innovation and modernization with sustainability or continued up-to-date readiness,” she said. “And we can only do that if we bring in new ideas, if we bring in new thoughts and technologies.”
It is only possible for these diverse new ideas to flow into the department if there is an environment within the department that invites them.
“We can only do that if we create an environment that is open to everyone, not just a seat at the table, but a voice – and actually able to share their thoughts,” she said.
Abercrombie-Winstanley said she is now working at the State Department to do the same – bring in various talents to strengthen her own agency’s ability to carry out its diplomatic mission.
“Our biggest challenge, as we know, is the system,” said Abercrombie-Winstanley. âA lot of people in our organization don’t believe that our system will serve them well, either that they will be valued equally, that they will have the same access to tasks that lead to promotions that lead to retention – not with recruiting but with retention . “
In the same way that diversity and inclusion can bring a wider range of ideas to the Department of Defense acquisition and preservation community, which translates into better skills for the war fighter, Abercrombie-Winstanley said that diversity and inclusion will strengthen the State Department’s ability to Conduct diplomacy on behalf of the nation.
“The secretary knew … we are doing this not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it will improve our work,” said Abercrombie-Winstanley. âEveryone knows that when you have a group of people trying to solve a problem, the wider range of backgrounds and perspectives you have at the table will give you a wider range of options and recommendations about the problem or the Solve challenges that lie ahead of you. “
That wider range of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, Abercrombie-Winstanley said, will help the State Department as much as it will help the Department of Defense.
“People who come from the region or have had experience in the region, the way of thinking, perspective, culture – all of this will help us with our foreign policy,” she said. “So that’s our bottom line.”