The percentages of minorities among newly commissioned officers and the Active Component officer corps are shown in Table 4.5. In FY 2000, over 21 percent of entering officers were minoritiesBlacks, Hispanics, and "Others" (e.g., Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders)and over 16 percent of all commissioned officers on active duty were members of minority groups. The Marine Corps had the smallest proportion of minority officer accessions at 17 percent, and the Army had the largest proportion at more than 25 percent. The most populous minority group, Blacks, represented 9 percent of officer accessions and 8 percent of all active duty officers.
Over the last few years the focus on minority representation within the officer corps has increased. Concern stems from the appearance of underrepresentation among officers in stark contrast to the trends for the enlisted ranks. A number of factors contribute to the seeming underrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics (though not "Other" minorities) in the officer corps. For reasons too complicated to dissect within this report, minorities disproportionately suffer from poverty and disorderly learning environments.[footnote 6] These risk factors take their toll in the form of lower college enrollment and graduation rates, and, on average, lower achievement than other population groups. Although test score trends have improved for minorities over the past two decades, large average differences compared to Whites remain. For example, the mean verbal SAT scores for college-bound seniors in 2000 were 528 for Whites and 434 for Blacks; mean math scores were 530 for Whites and 426 for Blacks.[footnote 7] In light of these and other factors (e.g., fierce labor market competition for college-educated minorities),[footnote 8] minority representation among officer accessions appears rather equitable when compared to the 21- to 35-year-old civilian population of college graduates which stands at 7.9 percent Black, 5.4 percent Hispanic, and 9.0 percent "Other." Blacks are slightly overrepresented among officer accessions, while Hispanics and "Other" minorities are slightly underrepresented.
Academic achievement differences factor into the divergent racial/ethnic distributions across the commissioning sources as shown in Tables 4.6 and 4.7. In FY 2000, White officer accessions were more likely than minorities to have been commissioned via one of the academies, but were less likely to have come from an ROTC program without a scholarship. "Other" racial/ethnic officer accessions were more likely than other groups to have direct appointments, but were the least likely to attend OCS/OTS. Hispanic officer accessions were roughly half as likely to have received a direct appointment than members of other race/ethnic groups. For the overall Active Component officer corps in FY 2000, Black officers were less likely to have attended a Service academy, but more likely to have graduated from an ROTC program. Among the FY 2000 officer corps, "Other" minorities were more likely than other groups to be given a direct appointment.
The Department of Defense is actively looking into issues affecting minority officer recruitment, performance, promotion, and retention in keeping with its track record of dedication to equal opportunity. The Services have programs designed to increase minority participation in the officer corps. In addition to academy preparatory schools, ROTC programs have a considerable presence at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and there are Army ROTC units placed at predominantly Hispanic institutions. Furthermore, there are incentive and preparation programs aimed at boosting the presence of minorities within ROTC programs and the officer corps.
Targeted recruiting programs, together with a focus on equal opportunity once commissioning takes place, have contributed to increased representation of minorities (especially Blacks) within the officer corps over the years (see Appendix Tables D-22, D-23, D-27, and D-28). The 9 percent of Blacks, for example, among officer accessions in FY 2000 compares favorably with figures from one and two decades ago (1990: 8.1 percent; 1980: 5.8 percent).
These accession trends have been contributing to greater minority strength levels in the total officer corps. For example, Blacks comprised 5 percent of all active duty officers in FY 1980, nearly 7 percent in FY 1990, and slightly over 8 percent by the end of this fiscal year. The lagging long-term minority progress seen through the Active Component officer percentages, relative to the near-term success seen among officer accessions, is mirrored in the pay grade distribution differences by minority status as shown in Table 4.8.
Compared to Whites, higher percentages of minority members are found in the lower grades (O-1 through O-3). More notable differences between Whites and minorities were found in the Navy and Marine Corps, where 57 and 61 percent of Whites, respectively, held the rank of captain or lower but 72 and 73 percent of Blacks and 77 and 79 percent of Hispanics, respectively, were company grade officers. The pay grade distributions were closest in the Air Force, with approximately 4 percentage points separating Whites and Blacks in terms of the percentage in grade O-3 and below. Additionally, the Air Force has a slightly greater proportion of Hispanics than Whites in field grade positions. Factors such as increased college graduation rates and targeted recruiting programs have provided minorities with greater access to the officer corps. However, it is also important to monitor progress further along the pipeline.[footnote 9]
[footnote 6] See Smith, T.M., The Educational Progress of Black Students (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, May 1996).[back to paragraph]
[footnote 7] See U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics 2000 (NCES 2001-034) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), Table 133.[back to paragraph]
[footnote 8] See Eitelberg, M.J., Laurence, J.H., and Brown, D.C., "Becoming Brass: Issues in the Testing, Recruiting, and Selection of American Military Officers," in B.R. Gifford and L.C. Wing (Eds.), Test Policy in Defense: Lessons from the Military for Education, Training, and Employment (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991).[back to paragraph]
[footnote 9] Department of Defense, Career Progression of Minority and Women Officers (Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense [Personnel and Readiness], August 1999).[back to paragraph]