Military Equal Opportunity:

Problems With Services' Complaint Systems Are Being Addressed by DOD

NSIAD-96-9: Published: Jan 26, 1996. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the military's equal opportunity (EO) program, focusing on: (1) the services' processes for handling EO complaints; and (2) whether there are opportunities for improving these processes.

GAO found that: (1) in implementing the military EO program, the four military services have established different complaint processes; (2) among these differences are the deadlines for filing a complaint, the channels available for filing a complaint, and the documentation used to record complaint processing and followup reviews; (3) not all the commands GAO visited were following their service's prescribed complaint procedures; (4) most important, some commands could not document that they had followed up on complaints after they were resolved to determine whether the complainants had experienced reprisal or further discrimination; (5) GAO's review identified a number of areas that offer opportunities for improving the services' EO programs, specifically: (a) some EO specialists were not used effectively because they did not have direct access to the commander, served very large populations, or had too many other duties to perform; (b) some commands made no use or very limited use of climate assessments to evaluate and improve the health of the EO environment; (c) EO training for commanders, who are responsible for managing the EO program, and for servicemembers was incomplete and undocumented; and (d) some EO complaints and incidents were not reported up the chain of command; (6) the Defense Equal Opportunity Council (DEOC), in its May 1995 report, stated that although no single complaint process would be workable for all the services, some common standards should be followed; (7) DEOC also identified a number of opportunities for improving the military EO program, including the need to reduce servicemembers' fear of reprisal for filing a complaint; (8) based on focus group sessions conducted with servicemembers, GAO noted an overall sense that the military was a good EO employer and that although discrimination and harassment occur, these were not major problems; and (9) however, the focus groups also reinforced DEOC's concerns about problems with EO complaint systems.

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