The Navy officially stood up “Task Force One Navy” Tuesday, a group that will seek to “address the issues of racism, sexism and other destructive biases and their impact on naval readiness,” according to a sea service release.
The effort will be led by Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 1.
While the Navy has offered no timeline for completion, Holsey will eventually report his findings to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday via Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr., the Navy’s chief of personnel.
“We are at a critical inflection point for our Nation and our Navy and I want to ensure that we are fully responding to this moment as we work to facilitate enduring change,” Nowell said in a statement. “We must use the momentum created by these events as a catalyst for positive change. We need to have a deeper inclusion and diversity conversation in our Navy and amongst our own teams.”
Among other things, the task force will look for ways to equalize “professional development frameworks and opportunities” in the Navy while working to dismantle barriers and “advocate for the needs of underserved communities,” according to the Navy release.
America's military leaders speak out after the death of George Floyd.
The task force will study racial disparity in the military justice system, as well as health care and health disparities in the ranks.
Other areas for which it will be expected to recommend reforms include recruiting and barriers to entering service, pre-accession mentorship and scholarship opportunities, career training and education, detailing and milestone job opportunities, fitness reporting and evaluation systems, promotion and advancement
The task force will comprise sailors of diverse race, ethnicity, gender, age and rank, according to the Navy.
“Now is the time to have open and honest conversations across our Navy,” Gilday wrote Tuesday in a NAVADMIN message to the fleet. “We need to identify what is really happening, understand where barriers exist and listen to all perspectives on how we can bring our unique skill sets together to tackle these issues.”
“This is not the problem of one group of people,” Gilday added.
At the command level, Gilday called for increased dialogue and listening to other sailors.
“If we have not directly experienced racism, sexism, ageism, or other forms of discrimination, it is often difficult to realize they exist,” he wrote.
Gilday also called for inclusion in problem solving, and looking at recent command climate surveys “with fresh eyes.”
“Surveys may show you some of the problem areas in your command that you can address in your conversations,” he wrote.
Commands should foster a culture where people can speak up on such issues and leaders should share best practices and increase their awareness of diversity celebrations and observances.
The Navy has a history of naming ships after icons of the Confederacy. Such honorifics have turned contentious, most recently in the fatal protests last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“I need every Sailor to … speak up and share your experiences about what you and your families are feeling, what you think the major issues are and how you would fix it if you were in charge,” Gilday wrote. “Identify areas where there are barriers to certain groups of people in the Navy feeling like they truly belong on the team.”
“Be an ally for those who do not feel like they can speak up,” he continued. “Listen to and understand others’ lived experiences and recognize that your perspective is one of my valuable perspectives.”
Holsey’s efforts will be supported by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith, fleet commanders and leadership at the Judge Advocate General Corps, the chief of chaplains, the Navy surgeon general and the chief of legislative affairs
The move comes at a point of national reflection on race following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Already, Gilday has banned the display of Confederate flags on bases and work spaces and has encouraged sailors to support their Black shipmates.
Back in the 1950s, the Mississippi Democrat was a signer of the so-called “Southern Manifesto,” which opposed civil rights efforts. Three decades later, he was the only Southern Democrat to oppose a national holiday in remembrance of the Rev. Martin Luther King.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has convened several boards to look at similar issues across the military, as well as the potential to rename bases named in honor of Confederate leaders.
The Navy also has an active-duty ship, the Chancellorsville, named after a Confederate victory in the Civil War, and the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis is named after a senator who was a longtime, ardent segregationist.
Pentagon officials have indicated they expect to receive recommendations from the advisory boards regarding ship name changes as well.