Implementation of the DoD Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

A Framework for Change Through Accountability

by Nelson Lim, Abigail Haddad, Lindsay Daugherty


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Research Questions

  1. How can the Department of Defense (DoD) create an enduring accountability system that will drive the significant changes across DoD that are needed to move toward its new vision for diversity?
  2. How should DoD prioritize the goals, actions, and initiatives in its Department of Defense Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, 2012–2017? What should the timeline be for accomplishing these goals, actions, and initiatives?

Two recent policy documents lay out a new vision for diversity in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD): the Military Leadership Diversity Commission's From Representation to Inclusion: Diversity Leadership for the 21st-Century Military and the Department of Defense Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, 2012–2017. These documents define the mission, set goals for diversity, and provide a general strategic framework for achieving these goals. The purpose of this report is to provide a framework to support DoD in the implementation of its strategic plan and to ensure that the resources devoted to these efforts are targeted for long-term success. The framework emphasizes the creation of an enduring accountability system; categorizes the strategic initiatives specified in DoD's strategic plan along three key dimensions — compliance, communication, and coordination ("the three Cs"); and prioritizes them across time — short, medium, and long term. The framework can help all DoD components work toward the vision described in the strategic plan in a deliberate, synchronized effort by complying with current laws, regulations, and directives; communicating effectively to internal as well as external stakeholders; and coordinating efforts to ensure continuing change.

Key Findings

A Framework for Change Through Accountability, Built on the Three Pillars of Compliance, Communication, and Coordination

  • Department of Defense (DoD) leaders must be held accountable, and hold others accountable, for moving the organization toward its diversity vision.
  • This accountability system must be enduring, as DoD is a large organization characterized by constant change and frequent turnover in leadership, and it must cover the Total Force, i.e., both the military (active, reserve, and guard members) and civilian workforces.
  • Compliance is the first pillar of an enduring accountability framework: If there are no clear and enforced rules about who is responsible for upholding diversity and inclusion-related policies and procedures, or for tracking metrics and meeting interim goals, then it is unlikely that DoD will make significant progress toward its long-term goals for diversity and inclusion. Metrics that quantify demographic representation, describe organizational diversity climates, focus on processes, and locate organizational barriers are key components of this pillar.
  • Communication is the second pillar: Strategic communication should explain the changes being made and convey both the importance of compliance to the organization and the consequences if compliance does not occur.
  • Coordination is the third pillar: Coordination is necessary to ensure that the accountability system achieves a consistent vision for diversity across DoD's large and diverse workforce; coordination among stakeholders can also improve efficiency and reduce cost.


  • Develop the accountability structure for diversity and inclusion based on the framework proposed.
  • Establish a clear timeline of implementation milestones and publish the annual status of progress toward these milestones for greatest transparency and accountability for progress.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    A Framework for Change Through Accountability

  • Chapter Three


  • Chapter Four


  • Chapter Five


  • Chapter Six


The research described in this report was sponsored by the Office of Personnel and Readiness in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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