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Commander, Naval Information Forces

Leading the Way into the Future - NAVIFOR Hosts Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit

by Joshua Rodriguez, NAVIFOR Public Affairs Office
28 April 2022 Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) hosted the inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Summit, April 21-22, 2022, in Suffolk, Va.

More than 150 Sailors, civilian and guest attended the event, representing Navy Information Warfare commands from around the globe. The summit is specifically aimed at identifying new approaches to attracting, developing and retaining talent in the information warfare community in order to build strong cultures which empower active duty, reservists and civilians and drive performance.

With the theme “Leading the Way into the Future,” the summit presented an opportunity to inform the IW community of Task Force One Navy policy updates and new DEI initiatives, conduct panels on leadership and family issues, and participate in breakout sessions where Sailors and civilians received feedback from senior leaders.

Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, NAVIFOR commander, opened the summit welcoming attending guest panelists, IW community leads, guest speakers and IW professionals from the fleet.

“This is an operational imperative – our people are our greatest resource,” said Aeschbach. “In the information warfare community, if I want to meet this demand, I need to ensure we are considering and including talented and skilled members from across all cross-sections of society, representing all facets of our American people,” said Aeschbach.

“I’m incredibly excited for this opportunity to learn, to grow, and to get better,” continued Aeschbach. “Thank you all for attending – let’s get to work!”

The first day of the summit held guest speakers, presentations and guest panelists on various topics, including the state of IW diversity: Now, future outlook, and key issues; Navy DEI initiatives; Navy going forward; and various topics aimed at identifying new approaches to overcoming the challenges of bias around race, ethnicity, gender, and the many dimensions of diversity to build a stronger culture in the Navy IW community.

Linda Gilday, senior executive program manager, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC), opened the summit by speaking to the challenges she has faced in her 41-year career in the private sector, non-profit, and military sectors and as a Navy spouse.

“The term Diversity means more than just hiring and having so many x-y-z on the rolls. It’s making sure you have invited a range of people with differences to the conversation… different perspectives, ages, races, ethnic backgrounds, gender, experience levels to name a few,” said Gilday. It’s broadening the team to include others; it’s the spice of life, never mind a good thing to do. It’s a way to broaden the conversation, hopefully lead to a better output and at the same time, develop ownership and buy-in on the topic. It shows you’re willing to learn, listen and collaborate with others.”

Vice Adm. Jeffery Hughes, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Development, N7, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, then emphasized the three pillars of DEI in the Navy going forward.

“It is incredibly important that we reflect the values that we value, but also incredibly important that we serve as an exemplar to the rest of the nation and to the rest of the world,” said Hughes. “We need exceptional talent to get after these incredible vexing strategic, operational, tactical problems and we need this exceptional talent to plan and execute complex and vital missions, period.”

Mr. Frans Johansson, the summit’s keynote speaker, is an entrepreneur, business leader and author of The Medici Effect – Operationalizing Diversity and Inclusion and founder of the The Medici Group. His books have been published in 21 languages, while their ideas have been implemented across all industries.

Johansson emphasized that diversity and inclusion drives innovation and performance, and that you need equity in order to enable diversity and inclusion. Johansson iterated through his discussion of The Medici Effect there is a way to think of diversity and inclusion as a performance enhancer, diversity and inclusion are not distinct from our everyday goals and priorities, they are essential to them.

On day two of the summit, NAVIFOR leaders started the day with an early morning class of Yoga Nidra, emphasizing the importance of wellness and work-life balance. That was followed by an IW leadership panel that discussed “Why inclusion matters and how to get there.” For most of the day, panels representing different groups of Sailors from across diverse backgrounds discussed barriers they faced during their service. The panels allowed open questions and candid discussions, further enabling DEI dialogue. The day also included breakouts for mentorship and sponsorship and a speed mentoring session.

“The diversity of thoughts and opinions will give us creativity and innovation,” said Rear Adm. Michael Vernazza, commander, Naval Information Warfighting Development Center. “We need that to compete and win in the era of great power and competition.”

“We are an all-volunteer force, and there are so many amazing things our IW force brings to the table,” said Command Master Chief Laura Nunley, deputy master chief petty officer of the Navy. “We need to have a sense of urgency and realize we are in the fight now.”

The NAVIFOR DEI summit was established as a direct response to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday’s call to “identify and remove racial barriers, improve inclusion efforts, create new opportunities for professional development, and eliminate obstacles” to Naval service members.

NAVIFOR’s mission is to generate, directly and through our leadership of the IW Enterprise, agile and technically superior manned, trained, equipped, and certified combat-ready IW forces to ensure our Navy will decisively DETER, COMPETE, and WIN.

For more information on NAVIFOR, visit the command Facebook page at or the public web page at
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