Posted on December 8, 2023

Ditching Promotion File Photos May Have Helped Minorities, Report Says

Meghann Myers, Military Times, December 4, 2023

A 2020 initiative aimed at reducing racial bias in the military’s advancement process may have had its intended effect of encouraging promotion boards to consider only a candidate’s record, early research by the RAND Corporation shows.

A review of minority promotion numbers showed an increase in officers of color moving up the Army’s ranks, according to a report published Thursday.

“The difference in promotion rates between white officers and racial and ethnic minority officers was narrower after the policy change, mainly for promotion to O-4,” according to the report. {snip}

In 2020, as the Pentagon grappled with the fallout of George Floyd’s murder and the discussion it catalyzed on the experiences of Black people in the U.S., then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a handful of initiatives aimed at removing unconscious bias from department policies.

Chief among them was a new format for promotion packets that didn’t include photos, so that board members would not be able to ― consciously or not ― consider a candidate’s skin color when evaluating accomplishments.

The Army took an additional step and redacted most identifying information on the packets, including names, so that reviewers would not be able to guess the gender or ethnicity of the candidates.

RAND found that in the few years since the policy change, more minority officers were promoted.


The Rand report’s findings coincide with a larger shift in the military’s overall diversity. Today, minority troops account for 33% of the Army’s lieutenant and captain ranks, compared to a 29% minority representation 15 years ago.

The data, however, shows that in moving up the ranks, white officers are more likely to be promoted ahead of their peers of other backgrounds, setting this demographic up to account for the vast majority of senior leadership.