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The U.S. Coast Guard Diversity Strategic Plan

Pursuing a diverse and talented workforce to meet the maritime challenges of the 21st century

In June 2011, the Human Capital Shared Interest Group of the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC), a nonprofit educational organization, released a report entitled, “Becoming More Competitive: How Diversity and Inclusion Can Transform Your Organization”. At the request of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, ACT-IAC was tasked with identifying best practices and emerging trends for building diversity and inclusion, undertaking a study of companies and federal agencies to provide insights for transforming current cultures, inform new policies, and identify factors required to implement proven strategies.

The U.S. Coast Guard ranked among the 12 organizations that were recognized for leadership in diversity and inclusion efforts.

How does the Coast Guard achieve – and maintain – a level of commitment to diversity that garners outside recognition? According to Capt. Catherine Haines, chief of the Office of Diversity, it starts at the top. “What experts constantly point out as essential in an effective diversity program is strong leadership,” said Haines. “Adm. [Robert J.] Papp is a model diversity champion and he mentioned diversity as one of the Coast Guard’s top priorities in his 2011 ‘State of the Coast Guard Address.’”

In April, under Papp’s leadership, the service refined its Diversity Strategic Plan to emphasize training and education efforts to enhance diversity management and leadership skills. The commandant, or a senior leader, is a regular attendee at the meetings and conventions of the Coast Guard’s affinity groups, such as the Sea Service Leadership Association, Association of Naval Services Officers, and the National Naval Officers Association, which raises the group profile and demonstrates the Coast Guard’s commitment, at the highest levels, to diversity.

The Diversity Strategic Plan is the guiding document for the Coast Guard, setting a clear and direct course with measurable goals and objectives for every Coast Guard member – active-duty, Reserve, civilian, and Auxiliary. To ensure that the promotion of diversity is not just an idea sent from the top of the Coast Guard hierarchy into the field, but one that travels up from the field – and horizontally, among mission and geographic areas – the service has devised a focused implementation campaign plan, OPTASK DIVERSITY. Analogous to a mission order, the plan provides an operational framework by aligning strategic goals with tactical, field-level actions that promote diversity.

All Coast Guard commanding officers are required to implement diversity initiatives – and, just as important, all the Coast Guard’s diversity initiatives are subject to periodic assessment and evaluation. Every employee is made to understand that he or she is expected to help the organization achieve diversity goals – that the success of the entire undertaking, in fact, depends on them.

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Craig Collins is a veteran freelance writer and a regular Faircount Media Group contributor who...