Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Biden’s Defense Department makes its mark on gender issues

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Hello, Broadsheet readers! Stitch Fix founder Katrina Lake joins the billionaire club, Harriet Tubman’s $ 20 bill is back on track, and Biden The Ministry of Defense takes a stand on gender issues. Have a thoughtful Tuesday.

– The defense takes action. The choice of President Joe Biden’s Defense Secretary was one of his most debated Cabinet posts, with the final choice going to former Deputy Defense Secretary Michele Flournoy and retired General Lloyd Austin, who ultimately won the job.

The choice disappointed some women who fired at Flournoy to break the glass ceiling of the Ministry of Defense. But Austin – who is himself the first black defense secretary himself – is quickly showing that issues of gender and identity will be at the forefront of his and Biden’s agenda for the DOD.

Over the weekend, Austin ordered Pentagon leaders to review their efforts to prevent and address sexual harassment in the army. His mission for his reports was even more ambitious than Biden’s 90-day commission to find solutions to sexual assault in the military. “I don’t want to wait 90 days to take action,” Austin wrote in a note. Of the murder of Private Vanessa Guillen the more recent assault and death of Asia Graham soldier, it is clear that time is – as always – of the essence on this issue.

Then, Monday, Biden overturned President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving in the military, restoring Obama-era protections for trans members. Austin and General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood next to Biden in the Oval Office for this signing.

After four years of an administration that was on the opposite side of gender identity issues and tended to be more lenient towards those accused of sexual harassment – as seen in Betsy DeVos’ decisions at the education department– it is not surprising that these two issues are the top priorities of the new White House.

What’s new is the urgency Austin has to address this issue, outside of his boss’s larger agenda. The directive on military sexual harassment was Austin’s first since he was confirmed to the post. “It’s a question of leadership,” the secretary wrote in his note. “We will lead.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe



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