Two months after publishing the results of a sweeping review of racial disparities faced by Black airmen and guardians, the Air Force announced on Friday that it will expand its review to include other racial groups, such as Asian-Americans; one additional ethnic category, Hispanic/Latinx; and gender disparities.
The other racial groups included in the expanded review are American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, the Air Force announced in a press release.
In December, the Air Force published an extensive report that revealed startling differences between Black and white airmen and guardians in terms of professional development and military discipline, such as the fact that Black enlisted airmen and guardians are 74 percent more likely than their white peers to receive an Article 15 and 60 percent more likely to face a court-martial.
The review also found that young Black enlisted airmen and guardians are almost twice as likely as white peers to be involuntarily discharged based on misconduct; Black airmen and guardians are twice as likely as white peers to be apprehended by Security Forces; and Black airmen and guardians are investigated and substantiated for Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) sexual harassment cases at a higher rate than white peers.
That review was kicked off in June, a month after a stinging report by the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders found racial disparities in the Air Force military justice system. That report, plus nationwide protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, prompted the service to take a serious look at the differences between the experiences of Black and white airmen.
But the Air Force is not stopping at disparities faced by Black airmen. Officials from the Air Force and Space Force said the expansion of the review announced on Friday is meant to demonstrate the services’ commitment to becoming a place where all airmen and guardians can thrive.
“Ensuring fair and equitable discipline and development for all our Airmen and Guardians is critical,” wrote Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond, in Friday’s statement.
“We are committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social and institutional barriers that might prevent our members from rising to their highest potential,” they added. “Diversity makes us a stronger and more capable force.”
Like the first review, this one will include data on discipline and development, as well as qualitative feedback from airmen and guardians. The first review received 123,000 survey responses in a two-week period, along with 27,000 single-spaced pages of free text comments. The review team also listened to 1,300 airmen and guardians in small groups across the Air Force and Space Force.
“The IG team has already begun to gather information contained in a wide array of previous reports, studies and various databases across the Department of the Air Force,” Roth said. “Although the data is helpful, the most important information will come directly from our Airmen and Guardians.”
The results of the expanded review are due to be released in about six-months, which is the same time the Inspector General will check in with Air Force and Space Force leaders to see how they are implementing action plans to deal with the racial disparities discovered in the first review.
In the next few days, civilians, officers and enlisted airmen and guardians across the services will receive anonymous email surveys from the Air Force Inspector General, the press release said.
“It is critical that we hear from you because you are a central part of the solution,” Roth said.
Featured Image – Airman 1st Class Raymond Lopez Llaurador, 721st Security Forces Squadron defender, defends America’s Fortress at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo, Sept. 15, 2016 (Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)