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Chapter 1:

Fiscal Year 2000: Equal Opportunities

A diverse cadre of military members stands ready for the 21st century. Men and women from majority and minority racial and ethnic groups train and perform their duties within a multitude of occupational specialties so as to accomplish military missions on land, at sea, and in the air. People from various social lines and geographic areas manage, operate, maintain, and coordinate complicated weapon systems gaining critical technical and leadership experience as they progress through the ranks. Their contributions to national defense are even more impressive given the sacrifices they are called upon to make.

Recruiting and retention success is affected by the benefits and burdens of service. The representation of minority members, women, and married members with dependents is vital to accomplishing today’s warfighting, peacekeeping, humanitarian, and other missions. Although it may be a departure from the military’s single white male manpower roots, diversity in the forces is now a fact. Results from the Armed Forces Equal Opportunity Survey demonstrate the military’s commitment to equal opportunity. Results show that a majority of Servicemembers believe that racial/ethnic relations have improved in the Services and tend to be better within the military community than in civilian society. In addition, most respondents noted that they had formed friendships across racial/ethnic lines to a greater extent than they had before they joined the Services. However, responses do point to several areas where improvements can be made. For example, there are differences in the way Servicemembers of different race/ethnicity view the degree of equal opportunity within the Armed Services. However, all in all, the statistics from the survey along with those in this report convey that the U.S. Armed Forces is a diverse group of men and women, from many walks of life, who perform together as a cohesive team to accomplish their missions as they admirably serve to defend our nation.

Blacks maintain their strong military presence in the enlisted ranks, at levels higher than population proportions. This minority group has achieved representation parity in the officer corps. Hispanics remain underrepresented but are making gains within the enlisted ranks and officer corps. Hispanic representation is important to monitor in light of increasing Hispanic population proportions and related issues of citizenship, English language proficiency, and high school graduation rates.

Unlike racial and ethnic minorities, the role of women in the military is still unsettled if not controversial. Although women comprise half of the youth population, in FY 2000, they made up only 19 and 20 percent of enlisted and officer accessions, respectively. However, these figures are all-time highs in the representation of women entering the military. Before the All Volunteer Force, in FY 1964, less than 1 percent of enlisted accessions were women. Women climbed to 5 percent in 1973, and shortly thereafter they topped 10 percent. Today, that figure has almost doubled, even in the face of a more streamlined force.

Although much progress has been achieved with regard to gender equity, much work remains. The representation of women has increased and many previously closed positions have been opened to women. However, women remain underutilized by the Services. The military is (and must continue) considering current and future roles for women in uniform.

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