Obama signs order to promote a diverse government workforce


President Barack Obama issued Aug. 18 an executive order requiring departments and federal agencies to develop and implement a more comprehensive workforce plan for promoting diversity and inclusion.

The executive order acknowledges and lists prior mandates that also address the federal government's obligation as a minority employer, but says this EO seeks to consolidate compliance efforts and streamline overlapping statutory mandates.

Within 90 days agencies will receive guidance from the President's Management Council and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for hiring, training and promoting women, minorities and disabled employees.

Within 120 days of receiving PMC- and EEOC-recommendations, each agency will be required to interpret the guidance into an agency-specific Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. This plan will outline recruiting, hiring, training, developing, advancing, promoting and retaining a diverse workforce, and will be submitted to the director of the Office of Personnel Management and the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

OPM's Office of Diversity and Inclusion will help departments and agencies develop their strategies according to a statement from OPM. The plans will likely emphasize the role of minorities in senior executive service positions.

"We've come a long way in the last few decades, but we still have mountains to climb. Although minorities comprise 34 percent of our diverse federal workforce, they're just 18 percent of our SES. That's unacceptable," said OPM Director John Berry, according to remarks prepared in advance of his Aug. 22 address at the Blacks in Government National Training Conference in Boston, Mass. "We'll look for every possible way to ensure the SES selection process is providing equal employment opportunity."

The strategy outlined in the EO had early buy in from across government, said Berry, who added that he expects enthusiastic participation from management. "If there are any hold-outs, just let me know," he said.

A Gallup poll published Aug. 19 finds varying perceptions of the government's role in improving the social and economic position of minorities. According to a survey of 1,319 adults, aged 18 and older, 59 percent of blacks say that the government should play a major role in improving the social and economic position of blacks, while only 19 percent of whites agree.

Twenty-seven percent of Americans of all backgrounds believe the government should play a major role in improving the social and economic position of minority groups, a figure that's down from 37 percent in 2005 and 40 percent in 2004.

For more:
- see the OPM press release
- see the executive order

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