22. november 2012

Diversity in the Danish Armed Forces

In April 2011, the Danish Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a policy on diversity for its 27,500 employees, 61 percent of whom are members of the Danish Armed Forces (DAF). The policy is the latest in a series that began in 1962 when women were allowed to join the armed forces. It was issued to encompass the many initiatives underway and to guide future efforts. One of those efforts is this report, which has been commissioned by the MoD from the University of Copenhagen as a part of the contract between the Centre for Military Studies and the MoD.

The Danish Armed Forces face the functional imperative of becoming a smaller, professional expeditionary force and the societal imperative of including women and ethnic minorities. It currently lags behind its NATO partners in gender and ethnic diversity. Lessons to be learned from NATO members with more diverse militaries, such as the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, include recognition of diversity as a societal imperative to sustain the legitimacy of the armed forces, the necessity of systematically collecting and reporting personnel data to guide policy, the necessity of patience and realistic goals, systematically developing recruitment, development, and retention policies, and the superiority of an all-volunteer force over conscription in fulfilling this societal imperative.

This report synthesizes the lessons of analyzed “diversity leaders” into five lessons that are relevant for Denmark. First, increasing the diversity of the armed forces is a necessary policy for NATO countries. Second, the systematic collection and reporting of relevant personnel data is necessary for the successful implementation of a diversity policy. Third, setting realistic goals for increasing the representation of members of designated groups contributes to success. Fourth, policies that develop a large pool of potential recruits among designated minority populations, target them specifically for recruitment, and develop their human capital so as to increase their performance and likelihood of promotion and retention are the bases for success. Finally, countries that procure personnel for their armed forces through an entirely voluntary system have more diverse forces than countries utilizing some form of conscription.

The report attempts to provide a broad basis for progress by including the above lessons, as the MoD and DAF attempt to balance the societal imperative of reflecting the values of society with the functional imperative of maintaining an effective armed force.