Turning 60, U.S. Air Force Merges EEO Programs

The U.S. Air Force celebrated its 60th birthday Sept. 18 with events held at the Pentagon and elsewhere. USAF, a military branch of 700,000 personnel with about 25,000 deployed internationally, said Sept. 18 it will merge its military equal opportunity and equal employment opportunity offices in January 2008. The combined organization will be called equal opportunity and will be a single location to handle military and civilian EO claims and issues, said Kim Litherland, Air Force Equal Opportunity director.

"The merger will allow us to effectively maintain both offices without a decrease in customer service quality due to recent manpower cuts," she said in a USAF news release. The offices are separate now because of the differences in procedures for civilian and military cases, with civilian counselors handling civilian cases and trained military counselors handling military cases. "Now, all of our people will get formal training to handle both kinds of cases," said Litherland. "Customers shouldn't feel like their issues won't be handled by someone who knows what they're doing. Every EO professional is going through the training right now, and everyone, both military and civilian, will be ready by January."

She said the merger gives USAF's EO experts a chance to expand prevention, education, and outreach, which will reduce the number of complaints. "Air Force leaders take equal opportunity very seriously," Litherland said. "We want to have a diverse workforce free from unlawful discrimination and harassment with the right people for the job, regardless of race, gender, or beliefs. This merger is the right thing to do, and this is the right time for it. It will sustain both programs without jeopardizing the principles of either."

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