90 U.S. agencies commit to improving equity in federal government

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The Biden administration announced plans intended to 'to embed equity, racial justice, and gender equality in day-to-day governing.'

The Biden administration announced on Thursday that more than 90 federal agencies had released "equity action plans" to advance President Joe Biden's equity and racial justice agenda.

The plans "lay out more than 300 concrete strategies and commitments to address the systemic barriers in our nation's policies and programs that hold too many underserved communities back from prosperity, dignity, and equality," a White House press release stated.

The announcement comes after months of criticism by congressional Republicans who have derided the Biden administration for utilizing government resources to address ongoing inequity and racism.

The White House announcement said, "In addition to prioritizing greater equity in the services the federal government provides the American people, Agency Equity Action Plans also contain innovative new strategies to embed equity, racial justice, and gender equality in day-to-day governing," and stated that federal agencies are taking "ambitious action to expand federal investment and support in communities that have been locked out of opportunity for too long, including communities of color, Tribal communities, rural communities, LGBTQI+ communities, people with disabilities, women and girls, and communities impacted by persistent poverty."

The Department of Defense, the administration says, will be investing in an effort to develop artificial intelligence technology that addresses well-known issues of bias in the algorithms that govern how such technology operates. Existing systems have been shown to incorporate data that reflects inherent biases, such as a bias against women, which has led to further instances of discrimination.

Following guidance from the Biden administration, the department will work to develop a more diverse workforce to create such technologies and will partner with historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions as part of that process.

In another initiative, the Department of Veterans Affairs will be examining issues related to the specific health concerns of veterans of color, LGBTQ veterans, and female veterans. Veterans Affairs, which serves the needs of over 9 million veterans at nearly 1,300 facilities, will initiate a "Data for Equity" strategy that will "synchronize data on health care, disability benefits, and other services to identify and address gaps."

The White House announced the establishment of an "equity data working group" that will "facilitate appropriate expanded collection and use of demographic data toward advancing equity," and said that agencies were "helping underserved communities learn about and navigate federal funding opportunities, expanding capacity-building efforts, and embedding a focus on equity into decision-making about how to award federal grants."

The administration also noted, "The President has made equity a priority in the implementation of" the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In a recent example of this approach, Michigan recently announced plans to use funds allocated under the infrastructure law to address clean water issues, such as lead poisoning, that disproportionately affect low-income areas and communities of color.

The announcement follows an executive order signed by Biden on his first day in office, Jan. 20, 2021, that called for "advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government."

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly attacked Biden and his administration over their actions.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted in March, "Your ability to afford gas and groceries means nothing compared to brainwashing federal staff about diversity, equity, & inclusion." Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado complained, "$2.6 billion of your tax dollars are being spent for global gender equity programs. Hard to think why people hate the government."

Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson falsely argued, "Many politicians are rejecting equal opportunity to push for 'equity,' which REQUIRES discrimination to achieve its objective of equal outcomes. The American way is equal treatment and equal opportunity—not equity."

In ongoing attacks on efforts to diversify the military, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) complained about "the dubious social science that informs the Pentagon's fixation with equity," while Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) alleged, "As China strengthens its military, the U.S. Marine Corps is more concerned about fulfilling a woke agenda. ... The world is laughing at us."

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) tweeted, "Instead of equipping our soldiers with the necessary resources and education to successfully defend our country, Joe Biden has blown through our military budget teaching diversity and inclusion. He is making America less safe."

While the Republicans criticize the administration, the White House noted in its statement Thursday, "Advancing equity is not a one-year project—it is a generational commitment. These plans are an important step forward, reflecting the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to make the promise of America real for every American."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.