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Mark Esper announces 3 initiatives to improve racial equity in military

June 18 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense will assemble an internal board and an external advisory committee on diversity and inclusion in the military, Secretary Mark Esper announced Thursday.

In a video address posted to Twitter, Esper also said he's directed Pentagon leadership to bring him ideas the military could implement within the next two weeks, "such as removing photos from promotion, school, and command selection boards" -- and that he wanted input from members of the military as well.

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The use of photos on promotion board packets has been called out for perpetuating inequity in promotions, as board members may favor white candidates over candidates of color.

"I am convinced that there are a number of great ideas already out there right now, large and small, that can help us make important strides in ensuring the Armed Forces look more like the broader society we serve," Esper said.

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The external Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services will take after the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, assembled in 1951 to guide the Pentagon as women were integrated into the military.

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The announcement comes as protesters in numerous American cities and towns continue to demonstrate against police brutality and racism, and amid conversations about racism and racist symbols in military installations.

Esper said he was proud to be part of an institution that embraces diversity and "rejects hate, bigotry, and unlawful discrimination in all forms."

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"However, we are not immune to the forces of bias and prejudice -- whether visible or invisible, conscious or unconscious," Esper said.

"We know this bias burdens many of our Service members, and has direct and indirect impact on the experiences of our minority members, the cultural and ethnic diversity of the force, and representation in our officer ranks," he said. "These things have no place in our military; they have no place in our country."

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