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Upon the Navy receiving direction from the then Secretary of Defense to review grooming standards for racial bias, the Navy Uniform Matters Office reviewed Navy Uniform Regulations (NAVPERS 15665I).
In addition to their review, focus and working group discussions were held with east and west coast assigned Sailors. Although the NAVPERS 15665I review and focus group discussions determined no racial bias exists in policy, there is a perception of bias existing in the fleet because some wording used in the document fostered inconsistent interpretation of the rules.
NAVADMIN 072/21, released on April 1, is expected to eliminate that perception's root cause by deleting eight subjective terms and phrases used in many of the regulation's seven articles. Three new phrases will be added while another will be revised. Some examples of deleted terms include ‘faddish’, ‘good taste’, and ‘outrageous’, while terms such as ‘complementary appearance’ and ‘uniform distraction’ were added and clearly defined.
Sailors can find the full list of what is changing in the message.
"The review of NAVPERS 15665I and discussions with Sailors concluded the Navy's grooming policies are not racially biased, but various terms, phrases and definitions were found to be subjective and lead to misinterpretation," Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr. wrote in the message.
The Navy Uniform Matters Office’s (UMO) deep dive into grooming standards started with the review of the regulations for bias.
After finding no bias in the document, UMO turned to focus and working groups and Sailor interviews to get a different perspective. It is here they found a perceived racial bias through how the Navy's grooming policies were interpreted and enforced in the fleet.
Sailors involved in these reviews were both male and females in paygrades E-3 through O-6 and came from ashore and afloat commands and the various communities and ethnicities reflecting the Navy's demographic makeup.
This input led to the current rewrite of the regulation's seven chapters to reflect the updated verbiage.
Updates to uniform regulations don't only happen when changes in Navy uniforms or the policies related to wearing them are updated. Instead, the document is "constantly reviewed for applicability, accuracy, clarity and comprehension," the message said.
Navy uniform policy and changes usually come from fleet feedback, command-sponsored requests and direction from Navy leadership.
As this is just the first in a series, Nowell wrote that Sailors should standby as more "uniform policy changes are forthcoming and will focus on simplifying grooming and appearance policies to alleviate misinterpretation and facilitate equal and ready compliance and enforcement."
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