26 July 2014

Is There a Place for Affirmative Action in the Military?

RALLYPOINT STAFF:


Does affirmative action have a place in the US military, ranging from the lowest of entry requirements to the highest levels of leadership?

“...Not only do I believe [affirmative action] is wrong, I believe it is counter to all that the military stands for.” Army Captain 

“...The selection should be on tactical and technical proficiency.  Minority status should not play into it at all.” Marine Sergeant  

“...Done properly, affirmative action won’t undermine combat effectiveness.” Journalist

“...Affirmative action measures would not only be effective, they would be constitutional.” Constitutional Lawyer 

The US military has been an anomaly when it comes to racial integration and affirmative action. Historically, it was the first major American institution to fully integrate, but it has also lagged behind other aspects of society in terms of equal representation in leadership. Although desegregation was gaining momentum after WWII, President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981 fully integrated the US military. Due to the order’s timing with the Korean War, the War in Vietnam was the first US conflict to field fully integrated units, and the results were not good.  Racism and prejudice abounded, and unit cohesiveness was poor in many regions.

The 1980s saw great changes in the military as racial tensions wore down. Women became a significant part of the establishment, rising from just one percent of the ranks in the 1960s to ten percent by 2009. Other minority groups also grew in numbers and shaped the modern American military. These changes in the structure of the military have ushered in the question of affirmative action with regards to senior enlisted and senior officer positions.

Many of those in the military argue for a strict meritocracy, where one’s advance in rank is dictated by his or her skill in leadership and in the field, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Others argue that the number of white males in military leadership leads to a poor understanding of the military as a whole. Certain groups are said to be marginalized. For example, consider the sexual assault scandals and many victims’ common complaint that they don’t feel comfortable approaching superior officers. 

There is a hot debate unfolding in and out of the military as qualifications are changed to accommodate women like for the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course, or complaints highlight the lack of diverse leadership in the upper ranks.  

Does the leadership in the military lack diversity? Have you noticed an increase in promotions to those who wouldn’t normally qualify, aside from the fact they are in an underrepresented group within the service?      

Weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the military community.

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