The percentages of minorities among newly commissioned officers and the Active Component officer corps are shown in Table 4.5. In FY 2001, over 22 percent of entering officers were minorities—Blacks, Hispanics, and "Others" (e.g., Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders)—and almost 17 percent of all commissioned officers on active duty were members of minority groups. The Air Force had the smallest proportion of minority officer accessions at 19 percent, and the Army had the largest proportion at more than 26 percent. The most populous minority group, Blacks, represented approximately 10 percent of officer accessions and over 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 2001 were 529 for Whites and 433 for Blacks; mean math scores were 531 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 8.2 percent Black, 5.8 percent Hispanic, and 9.8 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 2001, 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 the least likely to have received a direct appointment or to have joined the officer corps with another commissioning method. For the overall Active Component officer corps in FY 2001, Black officers were less likely to have attended a Service academy, but more likely to have graduated from an ROTC program. Among the FY 2001 officer corps, Other minorities were more likely than other groups to have entered with a direct appointment or by another commissioning source. Hispanic officers were more likely to have entered the officer corps through OCS/OTS.
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 10 percent of Blacks, for example, among officer accessions in FY 2001 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 over 8 percent by the end of FY 2001. 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.
The racial/ethnic makeup of the lower grades (O-1 through O-3) fairly closely mimics that of officer accessions. Minorities comprise 19 percent of company grade officers, compared to 22 percent of officer accessions. However, higher grades are more predominantly occupied by whites. Minorities represent less than 14 percent of field grade officers and approximately 7 percent of general or flag officers. Some of these differences are undoubtedly a byproduct of the improvements in minority accessions that have occurred in the previous decades. Officers with higher grades were commissioned at a time when minorities comprised a smaller proportion of the total population and were more underrepresented within officer accessions. However, lower minority representation among higher grades may also indicate that minorities are not promoted at the same rate as White officers, or that they tend to separate from service at an earlier date.[Footnote 9] To the extent that differences between racial and ethnic groups in retention and promotion rates exist, they should be addressed by career management policies. 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 10]
[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 2001 (NCES 2002-130) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), Table 134. [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] See Hosek, S.D., Tiemeyer, P., Kilburn, M.R., Strong, D.A., Ducksworth, S., and Ray, R., Minority and Gender Differences in Officer Career Progression (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation). [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 10] 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]