The Navy plans to assess whether it should include official photos in officer promotion packages, one of the questions that will be addressed by the task force that’s looking into inclusion and diversity in the sea service.
The Army announced last month that it would do away with the official photos as part of officer promotion boards starting in August, part of an effort to eliminate unconscious bias from the process.
Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr. told reporters Thursday that the Navy will be deliberate and take its time with such a decision.
The Navy last removed official photos from promotion records in 2016, before an about-face brought them back in 2018.
Officer photos are one of several areas under review by “Task Force One Navy,” which stood up this week.
“Promotions are based on an individual’s record of performance, not their race or gender, and we want to ensure that biases, conscious or unconscious, do not have any role in this important decision-making process,” Nowell said in a statement to Navy Times. “If we truly want to become ‘One Navy,' then we must have a navy where everyone has an equal chance at promotion.”
Nowell told reporters Thursday morning that he believes the task force will result in more than just brass-level posturing.
“I’ve seen plenty of task forces,” he said. “We’re sensitive to the fact that a lot of times, something happens, you set up a task force, it comes up with recommendations … then, quite frankly, three years later a similar crisis occurs, you dust off the task force recommendations from three years past and say, ‘Why didn’t we do this, why didn’t we implement that?’”
The task force will assess everything from advancement to recruiting and military justice, the Navy said this week.
“We’ve done a lot there in the past, we have a lot of data,” Nowell said of certain areas the task force will study. “The question is, what have we not moved on enough, what have we not moved on quickly enough, what have we missed?”
The task force is expected to present its initial findings to Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, by the end of July, with further reporting due in December, according to Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a Navy spokesman.
Nowell said the national reflection sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in May, along with the priority the Pentagon and CNO have placed on the issue, means this latest effort won’t fizzle out.
“I think this is a different level of dialogue, and it’s a different level both at senior levels and also all the way down to the deck plates,” he said. “That’s what makes me hopeful.”
“We’ve got some momentum here,” said Fleet Master Chief for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education Wes Koshoffer said. “We are approaching real talk, and that to me is very exciting. You can never rest your oars on this subject.”
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.