Air Force leaders face ‘significant number’ of racial, gender disparities

Credit: 86th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs

Credit: 86th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs

Since December, the Air Force has released dual reports on disparities between races and sexes in the service, offering plenty of data.

Now is the time to act on that data, leaders of the Air Force and the Space Force said Thursday in a Facebook Live video session.

A first review, released last December, focused on Black Airmen and Guardians, while in February the department called for another review — released last week — to include Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

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“What it shows conclusively is we do have a lot of disparities between the various groups we looked at,” Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force, said Thursday.

In the video meeting, leaders pointed to what Kendall called “significant disparities in any number of areas,” including promotions, sexual harassment, judicial actions and more.

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

“It’s quite obvious to me from some of these results that there are things we need to be focused on,” Kendall said, adding later: “Why are certain people in some groups not being promoted at the same rates?”

Black Airmen and Guardians are more likely to be investigated, arrested, disciplined and discharged for misconduct, December’s report found.

The Air Force also identified a “lack of a deliberate DAF (Department of Air Force) engagement strategy that maps Black/African American recruiters with operational experience to potential operationally-qualified Black/African Americans recruits.”

“All of us want to look up and see someone who looks like us to open the door to future opportunities,” said Gen. CQ Brown Jr., chief of staff of the Air Force.

“Teams are more ready when they have a more diverse makeup,” said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for Space Force, adding: “It is absolutely a readiness issue.”

“We need talent as diverse as the opportunities and challenges we face,” said Gina Ortiz Jones, under-secretary of the Air Force.

Brown said the Air Force has seen recent strengthening of diversity across the force.

“But it’s not in some of the career fields that we’d like to have, because as you know, some of our career fields tend to get promoted at a higher rate,” he added.

“Really, this is a journey, this is not something we’ll get done in a six-month time-frame,” he also said.

Among the steps to be taken are setting up Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices with chief diversity inclusion officers across all major commands, the Air Force said. And new reporting requirements for civilian hiring panels will govern the filling of positions at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels.

Those compiling the second report reviewed military justice data going back to 2012, the Air Force said. Their work drew more than 100,000 responses from Airmen and Guardians, plus almost 17,000 single-space pages of feedback from service members and civilians.

Further, half of female respondents said maintaining work-life balance and taking care of family commitments adversely impact female Airmen and Guardians more than their male counterparts, while 18% of male respondents shared that view, the Air Force found.

And one of every three female Airmen and Guardians and one of every four female civilians reported that they had experienced sexual harassment during their careers in the Air Force.

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