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Air Force embraces DEI as recruitment falters

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The U.S. Air Force has become increasingly focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, and critics say it is hurting recruitment.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Charles Q. Brown has been a major backer of the DEI efforts. Brown said in the fall of 2020 that DEI was a key focal point of recruiting and a factor in promotions. The Air Force launched a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in September 2020.

The Air Force is not alone in that transition, though, as the Pentagon and other branches take similar steps to varying degrees.

“Shortly after assuming office, President Joe Biden signed three separate executive orders directing all federal agencies to commit extensive time and resources towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts,” Thomas Spoehr, a Heritage expert and retired lieutenant general who served more than 36 years in the U.S. Army, told The Center Square.

Brown helped open the Air Force’s DEI office. Now, the Air Force website includes a litany of materials on the issue cautioning against racism and “unconscious bias.”

An Independent Racial Disparity Review published in December 2020 on the same site includes a “Magnitude of the Problem” section in which the taxpayer-funded office reported that “black Airmen are more likely to face formal disciplinary action than their white peers.”

“Specifically, black service members were 74% more likely to receive Article 15s and 60% more likely to face courts-martial than white service members,” the report said. “The primary offenses where the difference could be seen were: willful dereliction, failure to go to/leaving from appointed place of duty, making a false official statement, and drug-related offenses. Data alone cannot provide insight on the cause of the racial disparity in Air Force discipline, and further analysis is required.”

The site also includes guidance on “Promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world” and an “In-Service Transition Guide for Transgender Service Members.”

Those materials include guidance on pronouns, gender identity and the Department of Defense’s new focus on ending “homophobia” and “transphobia” around the world.

The Air Force has implemented racial quota goals for officers that roughly line up with the representation those groups have in the general U.S. population.

“It is imperative that the composition of our military services better reflect our nation’s highly talented, diverse, and eligible population,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a memo with other top officials last year. “This goal continues our progress toward achieving a force more representative of our nation, while leveraging that diversity to enhance the Air and Space Force’s ability to deter, and if necessary, deny our nation’s competitors.”

Meanwhile, the Air Force faces major recruiting issues. Kendall said in a speech in March of this year that Active-duty Air Force is expected to fall short of its 2023 recruiting goal by 10%.

“We are swimming upstream against a reduced propensity to serve nationally across the board and a limited percentage of qualified candidates,” he said.

Spoehr argues that this shift in emphasis to DEI is hurting recruitment.

“Now in 2023 we are seeing some of the results of that push with American citizens and veterans reacting negatively to these political efforts,” Spoehr said. “Military recruitment is having its worst year ever and national polls reflect a loss of confidence by Americans in the military.”

As The Center Square previously reported, these instances are just a few of many across the U.S. military. A recent DOD Comptroller report includes $86.5 million for “dedicated diversity and inclusion activities.”

“The Department will lead with our values – building diversity, equity, and inclusion into everything we do,” the report said.

Congressional Republicans released a report last year detailing many of these examples, including one case where a slide show presentation for the Air Force Academy called “Diversity & Inclusion: What it is, why we care, & what we can do.” That training cautions cadets against using gendered language, such as words like “mom” and “dad.”

“These efforts have had a particularly deleterious impact on the Department of Defense which for decades has prided itself on its tradition of meritocracy where individuals can achieve their highest potential based on their aptitude and hard work, versus their race, sex, and ethnicity,” Spoehr said.

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