Leadership: June 19, 2001


The U.S. military is worried about not having enough black and Hispanic officers to staff an increasingly black and Hispanic armed forces. Currently, twelve percent of army officers are black and Hispanics 4.1 percent. Blacks and Hispanics are 37.7 percent of the enlisted personnel. In the navy and marines, 12 percent of officers are minority versus 30 of enlisted sailors. In the air force, 8.5 percent of officers are from minority groups, while 23.6 percent of the enlisted airmen are. Demographers predict that in the next 20-30 years the armed forces will be over fifty percent black and Hispanic and thus something should be done to increase the percentage of black and Hispanic officers. A closer look at this situation reveals some good news and bad news. The good news is that an increasing number of Hispanics are classifying them selves as non-minority (ie, white.) This is nothing new. A century ago, immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were not, initially, classified as white. A similar trend is occurring in the Asian (India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Etc.) community. Rejecting the "minority" label is an American tradition. The bad news is that there is a severe shortage of black and Hispanic college graduates. The military can't compete with the civilian economy when it comes to trying to recruit college grads to be officers. The best solution might be to promote from within and send more enlisted personnel to Officer Candidate School. The anti-education attitudes still widespread among school aged blacks and Hispanics is largely eliminated by the screening process enlistees have to go through. Thus there are a lot of potential minority officers in the enlisted ranks. The government will have to pay for their further education, but this may well be cheaper than trying to recruit existing college grads. Moreover, officers who were once enlisted tend to make better officers. 


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