New Air Force Survey Investigates Justice Disparities in Asian, Hispanic, Native Communities

Chickasaw Nation Honor Guard 72nd Air Base Wing Headquarters
Dancers and singers from the Chickasaw Nation and members of the 72nd Air Base Wing watch as the Chickasaw Nation Honor Guard hoists the flag back up the flagpole in front of the 72nd Air Base Wing Headquarters building, Nov. 6.2019. (Kelly White/U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force will wrap up its second survey on disparity in the ranks in the next few weeks, a service spokesperson said Tuesday.

The service began the survey earlier this month as part of an Inspector General Independent Disparity Review. The review, which covers both Air Force and Space Force personnel, is focused on racial disparities in the administration of military justice by race, gender and ethnicity within the Asian, Hispanic and American Indian communities, the service said.

"Each Airman and Guardian should have the opportunity to thrive," Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth said in an April 9 release. "As a department, we need to understand what is happening, so we can knock down barriers to success. That process requires listening and gathering the facts. I ask and encourage all Airmen or Guardians to share their inputs and ideas so we can address the issues that will make our services better, more inclusive organizations."

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In December, the Air Force released the findings from its first racial disparity review, which compared the experiences of Black service members with those of their peers. That six-month review concluded that Black airmen are nearly twice as likely to be suspects in a military criminal investigation; apprehended by base patrols; or involuntarily discharged based on misconduct.

The IG's office received more than 123,000 survey responses from active-duty, National Guard and Reserve members and conducted 138 group interviews -- ranging from 12 to 50 service members, officer and enlisted, per group in two-hour discussions -- to understand where Black airmen are at a disadvantage.

While the review confirmed racial disparity exists across multiple areas, including military justice and career development, it could not define the root causes, said Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said in December after the first review's publication.

For some key findings, "we're not implying that [either] racism or bias is the causal factor of such risk disparity," Said told reporters at the time. "That requires more detailed assessment and analysis. When we say 'disparity,' it doesn't imply, immediately, racism, bias or otherwise."

The latest review, which will also include Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander and Latinx members, will mirror the first through anonymous online surveys distributed forcewide to enlisted, officer and civilian members; targeted interviews and small-group surveys; and a comprehensive review of available data, the release said.

While the survey will conclude in a few weeks, the second overall review will take six months to complete.

"The review we conducted last year and the follow-up efforts we've taken since have really opened the door to meaningful, enduring and sustainable change in the areas of racial disparity," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown in the release. "But we have a lot more work to do, and the overwhelming responses we had from our first review indicate that our Airmen and Guardians want to have a voice in the solution. I am 100 percent focused on ensuring we follow through with lasting results."

Brown pointed to a series of systemic initiatives that the Air Force has pushed since the first IG review to remove barriers that often sideline minority members.

For example, at Air Education and Training Command, or AETC, leaders launched the Rated Diversity Improvement Strategy to recruit, develop and retain prospective pilots from diverse backgrounds.

One such effort is the "You Can Fly" program, through which leaders allocated $2.4 million to the Air Force ROTC for the 2020-2021 academic year.

ROTC commanders in four U.S. regions vetted and selected "700 cadets to receive $3,500 scholarships to enroll in Federal Aviation Agency private pilot certificate ground school programs," according to an AETC announcement.

"Officials hope youth from under-represented groups will benefit from the monetary assistance to gain skills that help with successful applications," AETC said last month.

The scholarship money can be used toward flight time, flight equipment rental, classes, books and other academic resources.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Air Force Orders New Review of Racial Disparities Focused on Asian, Hispanic Communities

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