The Department of the Navy is taking a look at contracting, grooming policies and several other areas in the name of improving diversity, equity and inclusion in the Navy and Marine Corps.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker released a memo this month laying out the latest plans.

The memo directs the Navy’s chief diversity officer and assistant secretary for manpower and affairs, Catherine Kessmeier, to oversee “transformative and meaningful steps” that will further equal opportunity and diversity.

Kessmeier will spearhead a team which will develop a strategy to implement such policies.

According to the memo, she will also oversee a 60-day review of contracting “to identify improvements needed to promote supplier diversity and ensure proper implementation of equal opportunity and diversity policies in contracts.”

Harker’s memo also calls for a 60-day review of how Navy and Marine Corps bases and other assets are named “to improve diverse representation,” and also directs a 90-day review of grooming policies for the services, as well as an assessment of the precepts for selection and assignment boards “to remove potential barriers to diversity.”

The directive does not lay out what aspect of grooming policies will be assessed, but things like hair length, style and facial hair have all come under scrutiny in recent years.

Within 90 days, a review of the senior executive service will also be conducted “to improve the pace of diversity and the strength of the applicant pool, while remaining cognizant of merit system principles,” Harker wrote in the memo.

The department plans to release findings and actions it intends to take following the review periods.

“Equal opportunity is the fundamental promise of the United States,” Kessmeier said in a statement announcing the initiatives. “The Department of the Navy is committed to rooting out inequities that have sometimes kept that promise out of reach for underserved and underrepresented communities.”

Harker’s memo follows the creation of Task Force 1 Navy last year following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis that sparked unrest across the country and a reexamination of race in America.

Officials told Navy Times this week that the initiatives in Harker’s memo are complementary to the recommendations the task force released this spring.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Defense Department commission continues to look at vessels and bases named after or in honor of the Confederacy.

The commissions plans to recommend renaming at least nine Army posts, two Navy ships and potentially hundreds of miscellaneous buildings and street names named after the Confederacy.

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 geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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