American military: Too white, too male

The U.S. military is too white and too male at the top and needs to change recruiting and promotion policies and lift its ban on women in combat, an independent report for Congress said Monday.

Seventy-seven percent of senior officers in the active-duty military are white, while only 8 percent are black, 5 percent are Hispanic and 16 percent are women, the report by an independent panel said, quoting data from September 2008.

One barrier that keeps women from the highest ranks is their inability to serve in combat units. Promotion and job opportunities have favored those with battlefield leadership credentials.

The report ordered by Congress in 2009 calls for greater diversity in the military’s leadership so it will better reflect the racial, ethnic and gender mix in the armed forces and in American society.

Efforts over the years to develop a more equal opportunity military have increased the number of women and racial and ethnic minorities in the ranks of leadership. But, the report said, “despite undeniable successes … the armed forces have not yet succeeded in developing a continuing stream of leaders who are as diverse as the nation they serve.”

“This problem will only become more acute as the racial, ethnic and cultural makeup of the United States continues to change,” said the report from the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, whose more than two dozen members included current and former military personnel as well as businessmen and other civilians.

Having military brass that better mirrors the nation can inspire future recruits and help create trust among the general population, the commission said.

Among recommendations is that the military eliminate policies that exclude women from combat units, phasing in additional career fields and units that they can be assigned to as long as they are qualified. A 1994 combat exclusion policy bans women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level even though women have for years served in combat situations.

“If you look at today’s battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s not like it was in the Cold War, when we had a defined battlefield,” retired Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles, the commission’s chairman, said in an interview. “Women serve — and they lead — military security, military police units, air defense units, intelligence units, all of which have to be right there with combat veterans in order to do the job appropriately.”

Because they are technically attached to, but not assigned to, combat units, they don’t get credit for being in combat arms, something important for promotion to the most senior ranks.

Lyles said the commission consulted a panel of enlisted women on the issue. “I didn’t hear, `Rah, rah, we want to be in combat,'” Lyles said. “But I also didn’t hear, `We don’t want to be in combat.’ What they want is an equal opportunity to serve where their skills allow them to serve.”

Stretching the definition of diversity, the report also said the military must harness people with a greater range of skills and backgrounds in, for instance, cyber systems, languages and cultural knowledge to be able to operate in an era of new threats and to collaborate with international partners and others.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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8 Responses to "American military: Too white, too male"

  1. Sandune  March 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Somehow visions of women leading others against invaders of their land crept into my mind here. The Amazon women were the first to be leaders in warfare and gave women the first look at pissed off females at war. The greatest woman in my memory was Boudicca, leader of Iceni who defeated the Roman army to protect her area.

    In my imaginary depiction of these women shows me a powerful woman who thought in terms of winning freedoms. Maybe if Governor Palin would shut the hell up and think about what she is trying to say, there might be room for another woman.

    At this time, I see Secretary Clinton as a powerhouse of ability to gain her freedoms using her brain over brawn. She worked miracles keeping Bubba in his place, where I may have shot him to make a point.

  2. Sally Sullivan  March 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    This is silly; Of course men are most of the military top leadership, they comprise most of the military. With respect to blacks, having 8% in the top leadership is very high since as a group, they are only 12% of the general population and graduate from college at a much lower rate than white or Asians do. Hispanics are equal in numbers to blacks, but have an even lower graduation rate and many are either adult immigrants or young children.

    Even if these facts were not so, white males comprised most of the officer corp 20 years ago and therefore it is natural that it is amongst this group that is selected for promotion, not recent, uneducated immigrants.

    Get real – I pay taxes for this rubbish?

  3. Sue  March 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I served in the Air Force back in the 80’s (under Reagan), and I was the first enlisted female computer programmer in Military Airlift Command. I was always looking for other women who could be role models for me, and really-really admired Admiral Grace Hopper. But there weren’t many others…

    I might have considered officer candidate school, and making a career of the military, if I’d had some examples of other women doing that. As it was, I did my four-year enlistment, earning my bachelor’s degree while serving on active duty, and then left the military and went to work as a civilian.

    It’s been a good career choice financially, but surprisingly, I’ve faced more gender discrimination/sexual harassment in the private sector. Not as overt as the old “brown shoe” Senior Master Sergeant who told me to my face that he didn’t want women in *his* Air Force, and that I should get out. But I was a smart and feisty little B!TCH, and I knew how to use the AF rules and regulations to defend myself, while in the civilian world / private sector it’s never been as clear or as simple as driving across the base to the Equal Opportunity Office.

    Keeping intelligent women and minorities in the military, and promoting them to leadership positions is a win-win, I think. Good for the military, and good for the bright and talented who won’t follow my path of four-years-of-specialized-training-and-experience (on the government’s dime – including 75% of my college tuition paid by Uncle Sam), then out.

    • Carl Nemo  March 9, 2011 at 1:54 am

      Welcome aboard CHB to both Sally and Sue. I always find it invigorating to witness new posts with fresh views especially from articulate women. Doug’s site has a shortage of such participation with probably no more than a dozen over a many year period or at last the three plus so years I’ve participated.

      I found both your viewpoints and respective analysis concerning this issue…”Too white too male” to be spot-on. : )

      Carl Nemo **==

  4. woody188  March 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    They shipped the male dominated factory jobs away, and the housing collapse has destroyed the male dominated construction jobs, leaving many blue collar workers no choice but military service. Now they are going to let qualified men fend for themselves based on a quota in the military?

    It’s no wonder the number of stay at home dad’s keeps doubling and tripling. There isn’t any place left for them in the working world unless they start their own businesses.

    As of February last year, women outnumber men in payrolls. But it’s never enough and now their sights are on war making. I say start with making everyone register for selective service.

  5. bogofree  March 8, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    This may explain some of the reasons why Caucasian numbers have escalated.

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/12/22/1474608/nearly-25-fail-military-entrance.html

    Gang related tattoo’s can also lead to exclusion as can some criminal background issues now that the available pool is increasing thanks to domestic job situation.

  6. Carl Nemo  March 8, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    What this country needs is a major decompression from its seemingly terminal obsession with things that are military.

    We were warned by Ike that the MIC would be our undoing and he called it right. Between the annual military budget along with the additional ‘war on terror’ outlays we’re being ‘killed’ as a nation.

    The so-called core professional military needs to be trimmed back bigtime while military service for all males between the ages of 18 and 40 brought back into vogue. Without citizens being required to contribute some amount of time to the defense of their nation you end up with a nation of ‘freeriders’ who enjoy the safety of our superb forces without being part of that function. They should also be allowed to contribute service in some form of non-combatant capacity in the event they are genuine conscientious objectors due to religious affiliation etc. Women too, just like Israel need to be drafted. Let’em learn h2h combat, the use of arms and serve on the front lines if necessary. They want equality and ‘action’, then give it to them in spades. : )

    With universal participation in military service you’d see the greater population focusing more intensely as to what our now seemingly out of control leadership involves this nation via the use of ‘professionals’. Our military has now degenerated into simply a highly trained, well-equipped very expensive ‘hit team’ for those that engineer wars at the highest levels of our government. It’s not about nation-building in these times, but resource acquisition (theft if necessary) like Hitler’s “Oil Commandos” of WWII.

    http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?p=990039

    Carl Nemo **==

  7. Sandune  March 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Every generation of my family (both sides) were enlisted men including the older 2 of my mothers brothers who joined the Seabees. Several of my uncles who had served in WW1 wrre called into duty for training and hospital management after Pearl Harbor. My generation worked on movies, early television shows and many books on the stories coming out of Europe, the Pacific and we felt we added strong morality in our work. When the war was over, our government could not stop production of M.I.C. and to this day, our budget for new weapons. new science killers and new ways to train our forces rule our budget. . Sadly torture training added to the hell of war.

    In the late 40’s many screen plays focused on ethics and morals of our service men and our medical personnel and it saved our own personal ethics on the straight and narrow. We even declare war with no end game or ending and the killing continues.

    Individual Americans have no concept of intregity and sign up and follow orders without question. Is it the fault of leadership or simply a lack of individual freedoms based on right over wrong? The latest desire from the religious right is to take Jerusalem as the center of Christianity and move out the Jews and Muslims. This is caused by allowing the religious right to move into our government with a desire to change the bill of rights.

    It doesn’t take much to brainwash a sinful Christian and promise him full redemption if he works to rid the holyland of other religions. Newt said this afternoon that Americans are either Christians or Secular Liberals like Obama. Not everyone believes in the supernatural of the religious right and it is an insult to believe Newt and his followers.

    People refuse to see the truth of our species and fear their lives will fall apart without the big daddy in the sky or in the white house.

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