Urging Congress to Protect Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Military

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First today joined more than 35 organizations in sending a letter to Congress urging them to exclude 22 anti-DEI and other harmful provisions proposed in the House and Senate versions of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“Protecting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our military is both a national security concern and a human rights issue,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First and an Army veteran. “Congress owes all who serve equal opportunities to pursue their careers in military service, and attacking the Defense Department’s efforts at inclusion is counter to our military’s long history of pioneering fairness. Congress should pass an NDAA that does not include these harmful provisions.”

Past versions of the NDAA emphasized that an inclusive military is critical to maintaining and increasing the strength of the force. The provisions in this year’s NDAA put both this progress and the strength of our military at unnecessary risk.

Organizations representing veterans, military families, civil and human rights advocates, and others signed the letter to congressional leadership.

“Extreme members of Congress continue to peddle division and distraction rather than addressing real issues impacting the American people. A military that embraces this country’s diversity and reflects its values of equity and inclusion is a more cohesive, better-prepared military,” said David Stacy, Vice President of Government Affairs of Human Rights Campaign. “Congress should continue to support a diverse, inclusive military and put national security over political bluster.”

“ONS stands in solidarity with veterans, military families, and civil and human rights advocates working to ensure a just and unified military that truly reflects the best of our nation’s values. Safeguarding diversity, equity, and inclusion within our military is a fundamental national security imperative and a matter of human rights,” said Luke Schleusener, CEO and Co-Founder of Out in National Security. “ONS proudly supports the call to action led by Human Rights First and over 35 allied organizations urging Congress to eliminate the anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion provisions proposed in the FY2024 NDAA.”

“Secure Families Initiative supports all of our military families & those who serve. We know diversity is our strength within our military and that this attack on DEI initiatives jeopardizes the armed forces and our national security. As the descendant of a Black Revolutionary War veteran, I know that our nation’s military has always been diverse since our country’s founding. At SFI, we take on fights that matter to our community, which includes a strong democracy accessible to all,” said Brandi Jones, Organizing Director of Secure Families Initiative.

“These partisan and reactionary proposals would set the U.S. military back years in its efforts to address the life-threatening trend of hate and extremism in its ranks. The ties between troops and veterans and the far-right and white supremacist organizations are well-documented — illustrated recently through the arrests of veterans for their involvement in the deadly January 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. DEI programs create opportunities for all service members and combat discrimination,” said Margaret Huang, President and CEO of Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund. “Rather than seeking to end these necessary programs, we should expand them. Congress must make clear there is no place for discrimination, hate, and extremism in the military.”

“Despite all the bluster from fringe media and politicians, DEI initiatives in the military increase cohesion, and thus our forces’ strength and readiness,” said Janessa Goldbeck, Marine Corps veteran and CEO of Vet Voice Foundation. “The last thing our military needs is bigoted division that detracts from the mission. Continuing these initiatives is a no-brainer if you care about having the strongest and most lethal fighting force on the planet.”


Published on October 4, 2023


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