WASHINGTON (AFNS) --
Pride Month is a time to come together to honor the contributions of LGBTQ+ service members, said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks, who spoke at the 11th LBGTQ+ Pride Ceremony at the Pentagon June 7.
As President Joe Biden recently stated, Pride Month is a time to remind the LGBTQ+ community that they are valued and deserve dignity, respect and support, she said.
The Defense Department strives to lead on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, including for LGBTQ+ people, she said.
"The DoD is committed to ensuring and promoting an atmosphere of dignity and respect for all civilian and military personnel. We strive to make the Department of Defense a workplace of choice for all Americans willing and qualified to serve. In doing so, we set a bedrock foundation where all personnel are valued and given an equal opportunity to succeed," she said.
Recruiting, developing and retaining a highly skilled military and civilian workforce of diverse talent is essential to U.S. warfighting success, she said.
"The department should not and cannot be a place that discourages outstanding LGBTQ+ individuals from a career in DoD because of actual or perceived barriers to entry or hostile workplace conditions," she said.
In September 2011, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed, allowing LGBTQ+ service members and civilians to acknowledge their sexual orientation and serve openly. In September, the DoD commemorated the 10-year anniversary of that repeal, she said.
"We will continue to advance policies and programs to develop and nurture a leadership pipeline of diverse talent and create pathways for everyone at DoD to realize their potential. We know that organizational climates affect our workforces' experiences. More to the point, it affects our warrior readiness. Therefore, we are directing initiatives to improve leaders' skill development and foster more effective, inclusive team environments," Hicks said.
The department is developing a diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility strategic plan to guide and direct activities to further those initiatives within the department, she said.
That plan is in the final stages of approval and will identify DoD's priorities and objectives for the coming year, Hicks said.
Progress will not be driven by policies and programs alone; it will also result from the individual actions each person takes every day, she said.
"The diversity of the United States is unquestionably one of our greatest strengths. Many here today have fought hard battles to overcome bigotry and be treated with dignity and respect that is due to every human being," Hicks said.
Pride Month is a time to celebrate progress, and it's also a time for the department, the nation and the world to acknowledge the challenges that remain and to reaffirm our commitment to equality for LGBTQ+ people, she said.