ACTIVE COMPONENT OFFICERS
Race/Ethnicity. The percentages of minorities among newly commissioned officers and the Active Component officer corps are shown in Table 4.5. In FY 2004, 15 percent of entering officers were non-white—Blacks, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and those of two or more races—and over 12 percent of all commissioned officers on active duty were non-White. The Marine Corps had the smallest proportion of non-White officers, 8 percent of accessions and 9 percent of the officer corps. The most populous minority racial group, Blacks, represented nearly 9 percent of officer accessions and active duty officers. Hispanic representation among officer accessions and the officer corps was approximately 5 percent. The Marine Corps accessed the largest proportion of Hispanics at more than 7 percent.
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 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 2004 were 528 for Whites and 430 for Blacks; mean math scores were 531 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 8.4 percent Black, 10.8 percent Asian, 1 percent two or more races, and less than 1 percent in other racial minority groups. Only 6.9 percent of college graduates 21- to 35-years-old are Hispanic. Blacks are slightly overrepresented among Army officer accessions, while minorities are slightly underrepresented, in general.
Academic achievement differences factor into the divergent racial and ethnic distributions across the commissioning sources as shown in Tables 4.6 and 4.7. Across racial and ethnic groups, the highest proportion of officer accessions was commissioned through OCS/OTS. Scholarship ROTC programs were the next most used avenue. White and Black officers were more likely to have entered an OCS/OTS program or joined a Reserve Officer Training Corps. Whites were more likely to have an ROTC scholarship than Blacks. American Indian and Alaskan Natives, although a small group, relied more on the academies than other racial groups. Officer accessions of Asian and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent were more likely to be accessed through direct appointment. Hispanics were more likely to access through ROTC programs, while non-Hispanic officer accessions were more likely to use OCS/OTS to join the officer corps.
For the overall Active Component officer corps in FY 2004, Black officers were less likely to have attended a Service academy, but more likely to have graduated from an ROTC program. Among the FY 2004 officer corps (Table 4.7), Asians were more likely than other groups to have entered with a direct appointment. Hispanic officers were more likely to have entered the officer corps through OCS/OTS.
The Department of Defense actively monitors 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. 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 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 2004 (NCES 2006-005) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2005), Table 128. [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]