The percentages of minorities among newly commissioned officers and the Active Component officer corps are shown in Table 4.5. In FY 2002, 21 percent of entering officers were minorities—Blacks, Hispanics, and “Others” (e.g., Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders)—and over 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 17 percent, and the Army had the largest at nearly 28 percent. The most populous minority group, Blacks, represented approximately 9 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 2002 were 527 for Whites and 430 for Blacks; mean math scores were 533 for Whites and 427 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, 5.8 percent Hispanic, and 10.2 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. Across racial/ethnic groups, the highest proportion of officer accessions were commissioned through OCS/OTS, while non-scholarship ROTC programs were the next most used avenue for all but “other” minorities. White officers were more likely to have attended one of the academies, while slightly higher proportions of each minority group took part in an ROTC program through which they received a scholarship. Finally, “other” racial/ethnic officers were the most likely to receive a direct appointment. For the overall Active Component officer corps in FY 2002, Black officers were less likely to have attended a Service academy, but more likely to have graduated from an ROTC program. Among the FY 2002 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 9.1 percent of Blacks, for example, among officer accessions in FY 2002 compares favorably with figures from one and two decades ago (1992: 6.8 percent; 1982: 6.2 percent).
Although relatively stable between 2001 and 2002, accession trends have been contributing to greater minority strength levels in the total officer corps. For example, Blacks comprised nearly 6 percent of all active duty officers in FY 1982, just over 7 percent in FY 1992, and over 8 percent by the end of FY 2002. 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 20 percent of company grade officers, compared to 21 percent of officer accessions. However, higher grades are more predominantly occupied by whites. Minorities represent 14 percent of field grade officers and approximately 8 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 2002 (NCES 2003-060) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2002), 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] 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, 2001). [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]