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DoD announces new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the media on Afghanistan, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
September 23, 2022

President Joe Biden’s Department of Defense announced on Friday a new Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Composed of civilian men and women, the committee will “provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the improvement of racial/ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity within the Department with a primary focus on military personnel.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appointed General (Ret.) Lester Lyles to serve as chair of the committee; Lyles said he looks forward to advising Austin on ways to “improve racial/ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity as a force multiplier in the military.”

The following is the department’s entire news release on the announcement:

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has appointed General (Ret.) Lester Lyles to serve as the Chair of the Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (DACODAI). Lyles is a seasoned organizational leader and US Air Force veteran, with over two decades of executive-level leadership to corporate and STEM-related national boards.

On September 14, 2021, as part of the Zero-Based Review  of all Defense Department advisory committees, Secretary Austin authorized the DACODAI to begin operations once members were appointed in accordance with DoD policy and procedures.  

On September 19, 2022, the Defense Department announced the appointment of new members to the DACODAI. Consistent with the guidance directed by Secretary Austin in September 2021, the Department of Defense looked to the nation’s talented, innovative private and public sector leaders, whose service will provide a more diverse and inclusive perspective that promotes variety in background, experience, and thought in support of the committee’s mission. “The Department looks forward to the valuable and insightful recommendations provided by the DACODAI,” said the Honorable Mr. Gilbert R. Cisneros, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, who is the DACODAI’s sponsor.

As the Chair of the DACODAI, Lyles brings with him an impressive record of providing military and corporate strategic advice on a wide range of policy matters, including national security issues, to the executive branch, congressional officials, and the corporate industry. In 2009, Lyles served as Chairman of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. During his Air Force career, he served as Vice Chief of Staff, US Air Force at the Pentagon, and Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

Lyles is devoted to community service, particularly in diversity and inclusion matters which he believes is a mission imperative to national security. He currently serves on a multitude of boards including Chairman, KBR Corp; JobsOhio (the economic development entity for the State of Ohio); and Frontier Technologies, Inc. He also served as the Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council  and was recently named by the Office of the Vice President as Chairman of the National Space Council’s User Advisory Group.    

“It is an incredible honor to be appointed as the Chair of the DACODAI. This year marks a historical event as the first committee to provide the Secretary of Defense with advice and recommendations to improve racial/ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity as a force multiplier in the military. I look forward to working with my fellow committee members to help the Defense Department so that our national security is strengthened by the full participation of a diverse and inclusive environment with service members of every background,” stated Lyles. 

The committee is composed of civilian women and men who are appointed by the Secretary of Defense to provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the improvement of racial/ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity within the Department with a primary focus on military personnel.

In addition to General (Ret.) Lyles, the DACODAI’s membership will include:

DACODAI Vice Chair, Ms. Kristen Kavanaugh, Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Tesla; US Marine Corps veteran

DACODAI Member, Maj Gen Byron Bagby, US Army (Ret.), Managing Partner, BMB Strategies Inc.

DACODAI Member, Fleet Master Chief April Beldo-Lilley, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Director, Executive Operational Planning, USAA for the CEO and Chief of Staff, USAA

DACODAI Member, Gen Vincent Brooks, US Army (Ret.), Consultant Principal, WestExec Advisors; Visiting Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

DACODAI Member, Mr. Phillip Carter, J.D., Senior Director, Corporate Counsel, Salesforce; Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University

DACODAI Member, Col Lisa Carrington Firmin , US Air Force (Ret.), and CEO, Carrington Firmin LLC on Leadership, Veterans, Transitions, Military Sexual Trauma and Diversity and Inclusion

DACODAI Member, Brig Gen Lawrence Gillespie, Army National Guard of the United States (Ret.), and International Consultant 

DACODAI Member, Sgt. Maj Gregory Jenkins, US Army (Ret.) and CEO, Greg Jenkins Consulting on Diversity and Inclusion, Organizational Development, Education and Training

DACODAI Member, Maj Gen James Johnson, US Air Force (Ret.) and CEO, Operations Gratitude, a non-profit organization; and Vice Chairman, US Air Force Academy Board of Visitors

DACODAI Member, Dr./Col Walter Kaneakua, US Air Force  (Ret.), Ph.D., Professor, U.S. Naval War College; and Adjunct Professor, Pacific Rim Christian University

DACODAI Member: Professor Thomas Lee, J.D., Leitner Family Professor of International Law at Fordham University School of Law; Of Counsel, Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Panel of Conciliators

DACODAI Member: Dr. Nelson Lim, Ph.D., Director, Workforce, Development and Health Program, RAND Project Air Force; Senior Social Scientist, Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

DACODAI Member: Dr. Jeffrey Means, Ph.D., Department Chair and Associate Professor of History; Adjunct Faculty and Advisory Councils Board Member; American Indian Studies Program, University of WY; and Enrolled Member of the Oglala Sioux Nation 

DACODAI Member: Mr. Horacio Rozanski, President and CEO, Booz Allen Hamilton; Chairman of the Board of Directors for Children’s National Medical Center

DACODAI Member: Lt Col Alfredo Sandoval, US Air Force Reserve (Ret.), Founder and Managing Partner, Private Investment Group; and Co-Founder, Creosote Partners

DACODAI Member: Dr. Celia Szelwach, D.B.A., Professor of Practice for Leadership and Organization Development and Change, Cabrini University; Co-Director, Fulbright Hays “Bridges to Zambia II” Project

DACODAI Member: Dr./Col Heidi Urben, US Army (Ret.), Ph.D., Professor of the Practice and Director of External Education and Outreach, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Security Studies Program, Georgetown University

DACODAI Member: Maj Gen Linda Urrutia-Varhall, US Air Force (Ret.), Vice Chair, Board of Directors, National Military Intelligence Foundation; Board of Directors, National Intelligence University Foundation; Member, Secretary of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board

DACODAI Member: Dr./Lt Gen Frances Wilson, US Marine Corps (Ret.), Ed.D., Board of Directors, Sentara Healthcare; Virginia Beach Mayor’s Military Economic Development Advisory Committee

Meanwhile, the United States Air Force Academy is telling cadets not to use the words “mom and dad” when referring to their parents and instead use words that “include all genders.”