Lawmakers: Military Falling Behind on Diversity

Rick Maze, Marine Times, March 6, 2012

Efforts to make the military more diverse are not completely working, lawmakers say.

Race-based hazing and abuse continue, minorities remain underrepresented in senior ranks and the services have yet to fully implement recommendations made a year ago by a commission appointed to resolve some of these problems.

“We can and must do better for our men and women in uniform, no matter their background,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the aunt of Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, who committed suicide in Afghanistan almost a year ago after allegedly suffering more than three hours of physical harassment at the hands of fellow Marines.


At a Tuesday forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, Asian Pacific Caucus and Hispanic Caucus, a retired Air Force general who headed a congressionally mandated study on minorities in the military said that of 20 recommendations made one year ago, only four have been fully implemented.


“Thing are beginning to happen, but not at the pace some of us would like to see,” said retired Gen. Lester Lyles, the former Air Force vice chief of staff who headed the Military Leadership Diversity Committee that issued its final report in March 2011.

The most progress, Lyles said, has been in the commitment of military leaders to diversity and inclusion. “I cannot personally say I sense any push-back at all,” he said.

His biggest concern is the slow pace. “We need to institutionalize recommendations . . . not study them or look how we might do it, because we might lose momentum.”


For example, there are a few more women and minorities in senior ranks, he said, including two female four-star generals and four African American four-stars.


“Much more needs to be done,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who headed the tri-caucus forum.


“In the Air Force, for example, the number of African American and Hispanic officers has continued to decrease over the past several years,” he said. “Although African Americans and Hispanics now make up about 27 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 13 percent of active-duty officers in the armed services.”


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