(CNSNews.com) - Responding to a complaint from the Congressional Black Caucus, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday ordered the military services to review their grooming standards for African-American women.
Hagel told the CBC that he has given the services 30 days to “review the definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles contained in each of their respective policies and revise any offensive language.”
At issue is Army Regulation 670-1, published last month, which bans certain hairstyles, including dreadlocks, twists, and hair that sticks out more than two inches from the scalp.
In an April 10 letter to Hagel, female members of the CBC complained that the words "unkempt" and "matted" are "offensive and biased" when referring to "traditional hairstyles worn by women of color."
The military guidelines specifically state that "Any unkempt or matted braids or cornrows are considered dreadlocks and are not authorized."
"The assumption that individuals wearing these hairstyles cannot maintain them in a way that meets the professionalism of Army standards indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity conducive to creating a tolerant environment for minorities," the women of the CBC wrote to Hagel.
At a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday, Rear Admiral John Kirby announced that Hagel has directed military officials to address the CBC's concerns by reviewing hairstyle policies -- "particularly as they pertain to African-American women to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force, while also meeting our military service's requirements."
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) thanked Hagel for "his prompt response to our letter and for seriously considering our concerns."
She said his response "affirms his commitment to ensuring all individuals are welcomed and can continue to be proud of serving within our Armed Forces."