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News | Feb. 11, 2021

State EO manager recaps Air Force's independent racial disparity review

The Vermont National Guard’s equal employment manager conducted an overview of the Air Force Inspector General’s 150-page Independent Racial Disparity Report in the Vermont Joint Diversity Executive Council’s semiannual newsletter, released Feb. 2.

Duffy Jamieson reports that the report’s findings “reveal a troubling perspective” but also hopes that the Air Force’s commitment will lead to change.

The report, which reviews military justice data, career development and opportunity data, and Air Force instructions and publications, was released in December 2020 on direction from Air Force senior leaders, who ordered the report shortly after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd in May 2020.

"We're analyzing root causes and taking appropriate actions to address these challenges," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said in a statement accompanying the report. "Now we must all move forward with meaningful, lasting, and sustainable change."

Jamieson writes that the findings indicate Black Airmen are:

  • 72 percent more likely to receive punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • Twice as likely to be discharged based on misconduct.
  • More likely to be suspects in special investigations, apprehended by Security Forces, and the target of sexual harassment cases.
  • Overrepresented in specific career fields that may adversely impact their promotional chances.
  • Overrepresented in professional military education nominations, but not in designations to attend.
  • Underrepresented in promotions to E-5 through E-7 and O-4 through O-6.
  • Underrepresented in "Definitely Promote" allocations for O-5 and O-6.
  • Underrepresented in civilian GS-13 through Senior Executive Service grades.

With respect to retention, the report found no consistent disparity based on race, Jamieson writes. There were more separations at five to 15 years of service, but fewer separations with 16 to 20 years of service.

“The report made a point to state that while the review found racial disparity, that does not necessarily mean racial bias or racism is present,” Jamieson writes. “The review focused on the existence of disparity, not the cause.”

However, as Jamieson notes, six additional statistics stood out from the report’s findings:

  • Two out of every five Black service members did not trust their chain of command to address racism, bias, and unequal opportunities.
  • One out of every three Black service members said they believe the military discipline system is biased against them.
  • Three out of every five Black service members believe they do not and will not receive the same benefit of the doubt as their white peers if they get in trouble.
  • One out of every three Black officers do not believe they are afforded the same opportunities to advance as their white peers.
  • Two out of every five Black civilians have seen racial bias in the services’ promotion systems.
  • Half of all respondents said they experienced or witnessed racial discrimination from another Airman.

The Air Force Inspector General is due to conduct a progress report within six months, followed by an annual review, Jamieson writes. Both assessments will be publicly released.

Click here to view the February 2021 JDEC Newsletter.

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