Rafael Bernal, The Hill, July 22, 2018
Hispanics have failed to reach top leadership positions in the military even as Latino participation in the armed forces overall has remained on par with the group’s demographic growth, a study shows.
The study by Casaba Group, a Hispanic veterans organization, showed that between 1995 and 2016, only one Latino had become a three-star general, even as the number of active-duty Hispanic officers more than doubled, from 6,117 to 15,033, during that period.
Overall, 17 percent of active-duty enlisted service members are Hispanic, on par with the 17.5 percent of the general U.S. population that is Hispanic, according to the report.
Edward “Fast Eddie” Cabrera, president of Casaba and a manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says many factors have kept Latinos from the top military positions — and not enough is being done to alleviate the problem.
Cabrera added the military tracks minority enlistments and promotions, but it bundles all minorities together in tallying its diversity.
“That’s why we lost sight of what was happening with Latinos,” said Cabrera, “Generally you see a lot of good news … that’s only true for African-Americans and females, absolutely not true for Latinos.”
The data it provided showed that out of the 37 highest ranking officers in the military — four-star generals in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, and admirals in the Navy – 32 are white men, two are white women, two are black men and one is an Asian-American man, according to data from the Department of Defense.
The next-highest rank — three star generals and vice admirals — is slightly more diverse, according to the data from the Pentagon. Out of 144 officers, 115 are white men and seven are white women; 13 are black men and three are black women.
The list is completed by two Asian-American men, one Pacific Islander man, one man with unknown ethnicity, one Asian-American/Hispanic woman, and one Hispanic man.
And the lack of diversity in leadership is also reflected at the top of the civilian structure of the Pentagon.
Out of 45 civilians with the top Defense Department pay grade, only one is Hispanic, according to the study.
Despite the numbers showing a lack of Hispanic diversity in leadership posts, Cabrera says the military has been slow to respond when confronted with the issue.
In 2016, 26 members of Congress, led by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, wrote President Obama a letter asking him to address the issue directly.
The letter quoted numbers from 2014, which are virtually identical to current numbers.
Across the services, diversity increases as rank decreases, particularly when it comes to Hispanics.
Retired Army General Albert Zapanta, who started his military career as an enlisted special forces soldier in Vietnam, said that part of the issue is the career path that Hispanics tend to take in the military.
Zapanta added that for African-Americans in the military, non-combat functions have become the “pipeline to their stars.”
Cabrera said a cultural tendency among Hispanics to avoid self-promotion has also played a role in keeping Latinos away from the top posts.