by James Fitzpatrick
As those who have ever served in the military know, the United States Armed Forces is one of the most culturally and socioeconomically diverse institutions in America. It is full of patriotic Americans from all walks of life who come together to serve their country, fight for it, and ultimately die for it if called to. To have served in the military in any form is to be a member of an exclusive club in this country. Although there are some barriers to entry, race is not among them.
The Armed Forces have also provided countless opportunities for citizens in our nation who—through hard work, grit, and merit–rise through the ranks, provide a meaningful and fulfilling life for themselves and their families, and are justly proud of their calling. No matter their race, Americans have found comfort in the idea that if you are willing to work and serve your country with honor, the military will reward merit.
Since January 2021, the Biden administration has made a concerted effort to inject “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” (DEI) into almost every facet of military life. This includes mandatory trainings, a DoD-wide “Equity Action Plan” and an entire day dedicated to “Leadership Stand-Down to Address Extremism in the Force.” Recently, this radical DEI advocacy was taken to a new level.
On August 9, 2022, in his previous role as Chief of Staff of the Air Force, CQ Brown sent a memo to both the Headquarters Offices for the Air Force Academy and the Air Education and Training Command titled “Officer Source of Commission Applicant Pool Goals,” the memo directed officials at those institutions to “develop a diversity and inclusion outreach plan aimed at achieving these goals no later than 30 September 2022.” Among these “goals” Brown directed the offices to implement specific racial quotas broken down by percentage for each race. For example, the goal for “White” officer candidates is 67.5% and for “Black/African American” officer candidates is 13%.
This is disturbing for several reasons and could be potentially catastrophic for the reputation of the military at a time when recruitment and retention is at an all-time low. Just this week, the Navy reported that it will miss its recruiting goal by 7,000 sailors this year and the Air Force reported that it will miss its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999.
First, the military is one of the last institutions that Americans revere. A July 2023 Gallup Poll found that 60% of Americans have a “high confidence” in the military. This is a good thing and is likely due to the military having a reputation for being a nonpolitical meritocracy where decisions are made in the best interest of protecting the country and not based on ideology.
Second, our military exists to protect the American people, our homeland, our interests, allies abroad, neutralize our enemies wherever they hide, and ensure a safe and prosperous future for our children. We will do this by finding, enlisting, training, and retaining the best and brightest men and women the country has to offer regardless of their race. Straying from that principle in the name of filling racial quotas is a disservice to the American taxpayer and makes Americans less safe.
Third, this directive is potentially illegal on its face. The United States Equal Opportunity Commission states on its website, “It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” With this memo, Brown is advocating for just that. Air Force Officer applicants would be literally discriminated against because of their race if this new directive is implemented. There is seemingly no way to meet the quotas outlined in the directive without engaging in discrimination against certain applicants because of their race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Most members of the Air Force and the military generally are honest, hard-working people who do not believe our future airmen should be reduced to racial statistics. Recently promoted, Brown will now leave behind this divisive policy and force those below him, who likely had nothing to do with the idea, to implement the policy. This is wrong.
We must do better. That is why my organization, Center to Advance Security in America, has filed a series of FOIA requests to further investigate the implementation of these discriminatory policies.
The American military is the most powerful force for good the world has ever seen. If we want it to remain that way, we must shift our focus back to recruiting and retaining based on skill, merit, and future abilities – not race. It is not too late to shift course. If we do not, these out-of-control initiatives will continue, and military readiness will suffer.
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James Fitzpatrick is an Army Veteran and the Director of the Center to Advance Security in America (CASA), an organization dedicated to improving the safety and security of the American people.