US Air Force sets new diversity targets
Facing rising tensions with China and a proxy war with Russia, the US Air Force has concluded that having the correct mix of skin colors, ethnicities and genders in its officer ranks is crucial for enhancing its abilities to deter competitors.
“Diversity and inclusion are an essential part of our society and key to the success of any organization,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and other top leaders said last month in an internal memo. “As such, it is imperative that the composition of our military services better reflect our nation’s highly talented, diverse and eligible population.”
According to the memo, which was released publicly on Tuesday, recruiters for the US Air Force and its sister branch, the Space Force, will aim to sharply reduce the percentage of white applicants – especially white males – for the officer corps. Whites currently account for nearly 77% of the officer ranks, while only 6.4% are black. Just 23% of officers are women, according to Air Force figures.
The new targets, which also will apply to the US Air Force Academy (USAFA), call for 67.5% of applicants to be white, 13% to be black, 10% to be Asian, 7% to be multiracial, 1.5% to be American Indian or Native Alaskan, and 1% to be Pacific islanders. Furthermore, the air forces aim for 36% of their officer candidates to be female and 15% to be Hispanic.
Kendall and the other senior leaders ordered the USAFA and the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) to submit plans on how they intend to meet the “aspirational” diversity targets by the end of this month. There are no specific penalties for failing to meet the goals, but recruiters must report annually on the progress of their efforts to enhance “applicant pool diversity and inclusion.”
The new diversity targets reflect a push by President Joe Biden’s administration to make America’s military forces more “inclusive” and push for greater “equity” in all that they do. Last April, the Air Force updated its rules to allow transgender service members to skip their annual physical fitness test while undergoing government-funded gender-confirmation surgery.
Republican lawmakers have pushed back, arguing that the Pentagon is distracted by promoting a “leftist social agenda” when it needs to be focusing on “recruiting, training and equipping the lethal force we need to defend this country.”