Posted on August 8, 2022

Former Military Officers Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Affirmative Action in Colleges

John Kruzel, The Hill, August 6, 2022

A group of retired military heavyweights has urged the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in higher education when the justices review a legal challenge to race-conscious admissions policies at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Harvard University.

The former officers argued in court papers that allowing colleges and service academies to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions helps the U.S. military achieve its goal of cultivating a diverse officer corps, which they said accrues benefits both within the ranks and in overseas operations.

Prohibiting race-conscious admissions, on the other hand, would threaten to undermine national security, the group argued in an amicus brief signed by 35 former top military leaders, including the highest-ranking military officers under former Presidents Trump, Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton.

“History has shown that placing a diverse Armed Forces under the command of homogenous leadership is a recipe for internal resentment, discord, and violence,” the group wrote. {snip}


The legal dispute at issue arose after a conservative-backed group, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), sued UNC and Harvard over their use of affirmative action in admissions decisions. {snip}

SFFA suffered defeat in the lower courts, where judges rejected its arguments based on the landmark 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision and related cases. In Grutter, the court ruled 5-4 that colleges may use race as one factor in admissions decisions as a way to diversify student populations.

In court papers, SFFA urged the justices to overturn Grutter. {snip}


But the former military officers behind this week’s amicus brief cautioned the justices against such a move. Overruling Grutter and related Supreme Court precedent, they said, would make achieving the military’s diversity goals more difficult and impair military cohesion and effectiveness.


The retired officers in their brief argued that diversity in military leadership flows directly from diversity in higher education, with the bulk of military officers hailing from service academies such as the Army’s U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., or Reserve Officer Training Corps programs housed at civilian universities.

“Diversity in the halls of academia directly affects performance in the theaters of war,” they wrote.

They added that the demands of recent U.S. humanitarian missions — which included deployments to Haiti, Somalia and Latin America — underscore the need for diversity in the officer corps. That aim is no less critical in elite special forces units such as the Navy SEALs, which currently face a severe shortage of minority officers, they wrote.