| Although the military
is one of the most racially and ethnically integrated institutions in
the United States, inequities nevertheless persist. For this reason,
policies and practices are under continual review and revision to ensure
conformance with the institution's long-standing commitment to equal
opportunity and non-discrimination.
Over the years, Department of Defense leadership has remained
vigilant in order to sustain and improve the environment in which U.S.
military members live and work. Unlike non-military equal opportunity
programs that are based in law, Department of Defense military equal
opportunity programs are based in Secretary of Defense policy. These
programs are monitored internally through a process of Service reports
and a system of compliance investigations. Accountability is stressed
throughout the highest and lowest levels of the chain of command.
Commanders at the unit level use assessment surveys to measure the
effectiveness of equal opportunity guidance, practices and programs.
On November 22, 1999, the Secretary of Defense released two reports
assessing equal opportunity progress from a Department of Defense
perspective: a report on the Career Progression of Minority and Women
Officers and a report on the Armed Forces Equal Opportunity Survey. Both
reports are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/.
The report on the Career Progression of Minority and Women Officers
study affirms equal opportunity successes while identifying areas that
require continuing attention and effort. The study addressed in part the
perceptions of service members, but its main thrust was to examine
performance in providing equal opportunity in the military Services. The
study determined that:
1977 to 1997, representation of racial minorities and women among active
duty commissioned officers more than doubled, from 7 percent to 15.3
percent for minority officers and from 5.9 percent to 14.1 percent for
women officers. These patterns of increasing minority and female
representation were true for all four Services.
Even during the post-Cold War force reduction, representation of
women officers increased, as did the representation of Blacks,
Hispanics, and other minorities.
Women and minorities tend to be concentrated in administrative and
supply areas and underrepresented in tactical operations, the area that
yields two-thirds of the general and flag officers of the Services.
Women and minorities are very much underrepresented in some fields such
as aviation, although the trend is upwards.
Compared to White men, promotion rates for White women are about the
same. But promotion rates for Black men and women are lower at some rank
levels. Potential factors contributing to the different promotion rates
for minorities and women are: educational/pre-commissioning preparation,
initial assignments contributing to a "slow start," and
limited access to peer and mentor networks.
Some minority and female members believe they are held to a higher
standard than majority race and male colleagues and feel they must pass
"tests" to demonstrate their worth on the job.
Officers who felt they had been discriminated against generally
believed that an individual, rather than the military institution,
committed the act.
Many women and minority officers felt that, overall, they had been
treated fairly and that the equal opportunity climate was not better,
but probably worse, in the private sector. The report on the Armed
Forces Equal Opportunity Survey provided similar and corroborating
information. The survey is the first of its kind and was administered to
76,000 military members from the enlisted to the officer ranks. The
survey results reflected areas where the Department's actions have been
successful and areas where the Department's actions require attention.
Some of the key findings were:
are differences in the way service members of different races and ethnic
groups perceived the state of equal opportunity. Black service members
tended to be more pessimistic about the degree of progress in equal
opportunity than were members of other race or ethnic groups.
Many service members of all races and ethnic groups reported negative
experiences they felt were based on their race or ethnicity. Service
members reported having had such experiences both on military
installations and in surrounding communities.
Minority service members were more likely than Whites to report being
unfairly punished. Some 9 percent of Blacks, 6 percent of Hispanics, 5
percent of American Indian/Alaska Natives, and 4 percent of
Asian/Pacific Islanders reported being unfairly punished in comparison
to only 2 percent of Whites.
Relatively small percentages of members in each racial/ethnic group
said they experienced an incident of harassment or discrimination
related to the military personnel system.
Service members perceived that there had been greater improvement in
race and ethnic relations in the military than in civilian society and
that opportunities and conditions were better in the military than in
civilian society. In the memorandum transmitting the Armed Forces Equal
Opportunity Survey report to the Secretaries of the Military Departments
and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense
William Cohen wrote: "I am convinced that this important survey can
inform our actions as we work to improve our processes and practices
that are designed to ensure equal opportunity for fair treatment of all
men and women in uniform. To this end, a complete electronic file of the
survey data is being provided to each Service to assist in their review
and in the assessment of modifications and improvements of Service
programs and procedures that may be warranted." Secretary Cohen
followed this guidance with a call for a meeting of the Department's
senior leadership to review the survey results and the career
The Department of Defense plans to use both the report on the Career
Progression of Minority and Women Officers and the report on the Armed
Forces Equal Opportunity Survey to evaluate the effectiveness of its
efforts in equal opportunity into the next millennium.