Report finds judicial, professional disparities for Black men in Air Force

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said, Inspector General of the Air Force, visited members of the Air Force Inspection Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., in July 2019. Photo by Kimberly Nagle/U.S. Air Force

Dec. 23 (UPI) — An Air Force inspector general review into racial disparities in the service found Black men at every level of the service experience disproportionately negative outcomes at nearly every level.

“The report, which was released Monday, found that enlisted Black airmen were 72% more likely than their White counterparts to receive non-judicial punishments for their commanding officers and 57% more likely than White airmen to face a court-martial.

Black airmen were almost twice as likely as their White counterparts to be involuntarily discharged for misconduct, and Black airmen are 1.64 times more likely to be suspects in Office of Special Investigations criminal cases.

Investigators reviewed ways Black men are treated in several contexts, including law enforcement apprehensions, criminal investigations, military justice and administrative separations.

Black airmen were less likely to be placed in operational career fields such as pilots and overrepresented in support career fields, where they are less likely to be offered key career development opportunities.

Black Air Force officers have also been overrepresented in their nominations to attend professional military education, but underrepresented when selections for those classes are made.

The report also discusses Black airmen’s’ experiences advancing their careers in the service, including which career fields they tend to be placed into, promotion rates, professional military educational development and leadership opportunities.

Air Force inspector general Lt. Gen. Sami Said said the report’s conclusions about disparities were based on data researchers collected, not anecdotes — but that the data are consistent with stories shared in a two-week survey the Air Force conducted with service members.

The Air Force launched an inquiry into racial disparities in the service in June, following the police-involved killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd, which sparked months of civil unrest nationwide.

The review also covered civilian personnel in the branch as well as Space Force guardians and service members at both the officer and enlisted level.

Also in June, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper launched a series of diversity initiatives including the creation of a Board on Diversity and Inclusion chaired by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett.

As a result of Monday’s report, Barrett has ordered agencies to come up with plans to figure out the root causes for these problems and correct them, within 60 days. Those plans must include specific changes to policies, processes and procedures, and how those changes will affect the racial disparities.

The IG’s office plans to release a progress report six months from now measuring what the Air Force has done, and will also do a full review annually.


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