The Army has a disproportionate lack of African American officers in combat arms branches—infantry, armor, aviation, and field artillery. And based on its institutional inaction, the service seems to collectively believe that this is not a problem.
The hard truth is that combat arms demographics are little more than a talking point that is brought up every few years, typically by black stakeholders. The National Defense Authorization Acts of 2013 and 2020 prescribed task forces, commissions, and strategic plans. Yet, the lack of appropriate funds directed toward implementing a program aimed at change and of any fundamental policy changes makes these efforts appear to be for naught.
The lack of diversity among combat arms officers is a strategic problem, however, because under the current Army construct, only combat arms officers become senior strategic leaders—senior, three- and four-star generals that serve as the chief of staff of the Army, corps commanders, or component combatant commanders.
Solving this problem will require deliberate and comprehensive effort. But addressing two issues in particular would be especially impactful. First, more should be done to encourage African American cadets to pursue careers as combat arms officers—and to continue in those branches throughout their careers. The Army will have a role in doing so, but so will African American stakeholders at all levels, from cadets to mid-career officers. Gen. Xavier Garrett briefly discussed the phenomenon of African American cadets choosing non–combat arms career paths in a recent New York Times article covering the lack of black senior officers across the services. If the Army and the black community remain unconcerned about convincing young black cadets to branch combat arms, the status quo will remain.
Second, it is time to reconsider whether virtually the entirety of the Army’s senior-most leadership positions actually needs to be filled with officers from combat arms backgrounds.
History of Black Officers in Combat Arms
Research specific to the topic of black officers in the Army started as a broad topic covering all branches but has become more specific to combat arms as time has elapsed. As a colonel at the Army War College in 1995, retired Brig. Gen. Remo Butler wrote a Strategy Research Project, “Why Black Officers Fail,” which offered a shocking description of the inequalities of the selection of African American officers for colonel and general-officer rank. Fifteen years later, Col. Irving Smith, PhD, with updated data, showed no change in “Why Black Officers Still Fail.” Both officers identified a key problem: there is a lack of mentorship from not only black officers but also white officers who aren’t invested in a diverse force. This is why black officers still fail. Lt. Col. Okera Anyabwile provides a detailed historical examination in his recent Army War College paper, “Meritocracy or Hypocrisy: The Legacy of Institutionalized Racism in Combat-Arms.” What this history has led to is a situation in which the Army doesn’t have enough African American commanders at the battalion level to grow a number of any significance into senior leaders. And as Butler and Smith showed, this has been a fact of the institution for at least the past two generations.
Historically, African Americans who wanted to serve this country as Army officers were both limited in branch opportunities and segregated from white soldiers by the institution. The history of Fort Des Moines mass-producing 639 black officers after the United States declared war on Germany and announced its intention to join the fighting in Europe during the First World War is well documented. So is African American veterans’ inhumane treatment by the country they fought for, as expendable on the battlefield and second-class citizens upon returning home from both World Wars. African Americans who have contributed during those wars and every major conflict of this country might not view the Army as a place of belonging, and those who continue to serve might reasonably question the extent to which it is a true meritocracy, as Anyabwile explained in his paper. Whether the Army is perceived as a meritocratic institution becomes especially important because of the impact on recruitment—much like the effects of glorifying rebellious Confederates by naming military bases after such traitors who fought to uphold the institution of slavery.
It is also noteworthy that writing on the topic of African Americans’ underrepresentation among combat arms officers has mainly been done by black combat arms officers at either the Command and General Staff College or the Army War College. The lack of white officers who have studied this topic is glaringly apparent.
Diversifying Combat Arms
Working deliberately to increase the number of African Americans who choose to branch combat arms is one way to increase diversity at the strategic level. Presently, the data shows that African Americans don’t want to branch combat arms. In particular, and regardless of commissioning source, African American cadets are less likely to choose combat arms unless a black combat arms officer is present in their respective programs—as is clear from the cases of some historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that have produced numerous general officers and in specific years at West Point when black field-grade combat arms officers were present in leadership positions.
The only practical approach that has been effective is to place black combat arms officers at commissioning sources to coach, teach, mentor, and influence branch choices. Spawned from a recommendation in the fall of 2016, the Army adopted the idea of assigning pre-command lieutenants and captains from combat arms branches to HBCUs to cultivate an interest in said branches. The drawback, though, is that these selected officers are missing crucial time before competing to be company-level commanders and communicates an oddity in their files before the promotion boards. At a minimum, it is important that the Army’s Talent Management Task Force takes steps to alleviate this issue so the Army can make assignments at commissioning sources more reliable indicators of promotion potential.
The combat arms branches themselves are also a critical part of this work. The commandants of the armor, field artillery and infantry branches all have engagement officers who manage outreach to commissioning sources around the country. Many commandants have yet to identify black officers as the face of their outreach. From 2015 to 2018, only one of the combat arms branches (field artillery) had an officer who wasn’t white as its engagement officer. If the traveling roadshow of branches at schools, especially HBCUs, across the country throughout the academic year and during cadets’ summer military training is composed largely of white officers, cadets of color can’t see themselves in these units. Linking these existing efforts with the Army Enterprise Marketing element would be an important step. Currently, officers chosen for the most public-facing jobs of the combat arms branches have not yet achieved command. These officers are thrust into a high-impact position with little to no training on marketing or human capital management. Filling these positions with post-command captains and tying them to a requirement to earn a graduate degree will better equip the officers, better serve combat arms branches, and enable cadets to engage with more experienced officers when making their branch decisions.
Diversifying the Ranks of Senior Leaders
A second way to begin increasing diversity among the Army’s senior leaders is to address the way those leaders are selected.
In the case of corps and component combatant commanders, it is entirely understandable why the Army still chooses combat arms officers to fill these positions. But for the chief of staff, who no longer has operational control of soldiers on the battlefield, the Army may be adhering to an outdated practice. If the chief of staff of the Army is the principal advisor to the secretary of the Army and the green-suited strategic leader of the institutional Army, why must a combat arms officer hold this position? Truly opening up this position to all general officers regardless of their previous career fields, significantly increasing the number of all minority prospects, expands the pool from which the service’s highest-ranking strategic leader is selected. This is especially relevant today, as the Army’s Talent Management Task Force seeks to grow and promote the best strategic leaders.
There hasn’t been an Army chief of staff that wasn’t a combat arms officer for more than fifty years. In search of strategic leaders, the Army should look beyond combat arms branches and consider the totality of talent across the force. Currently, the Army counts 378 general officers in its ranks, 141 of whom were commissioned as combat arms officers. What does this mean that for the remaining 237 general officers that have promoted at every level and have led agencies responsible for billions of dollars and vital to the national security of the country, gaining experiences that would be extraordinarily relevant in the role of chief of staff? The chief of staff no longer fights the nation’s wars—and is not even in the chain of command, as explicitly codified in the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. Combatant commanders coordinate the fight. If the Army requires its senior leaders to maintain the trust of the American people, consistently and disproportionately selecting white combat arms officers as stewards of that trust signals to the public a message of exclusivity that is not consistent with a diverse force.
What Kind of Strategic Leaders Does the Army Really Need?
The Army does not need either generalists or specialists in its strategic leadership positions, but rather hybrid leaders. A hybrid leader is the person who can be dropped into any team and can still create value for the organization. Being operationally focused and technically savvy is good, but it’s not enough; the Army requires people to think strategically and understand how they fit into the larger construct. The current career-development model ensures technical, tactical, and operational knowledge, but insufficient enterprise expertise. One assignment at headquarters doesn’t make you strategic. What the Army should be seeking to develop are “T-shaped leaders”—leaders who, through multiple broadening experiences, have added a wide breadth of experience to the depth of specialized expertise they have developed throughout their careers.
The Army creates leaders at scale through broadening assignments; not all assignments are created equal. The Army needs technical, tactical, and operational expertise, and one assignment is not enough to cultivate it. To operate at the strategic level, an officer requires exposure gained through multiple and varied assignments—from serving as an aide-de-camp or in a congressional fellowship program to opportunities outside of the service, such as the Training With Industry or Advanced Civil Schooling programs. Former Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno was pointed in his view on the necessity of developing military leaders who are competent in the political environment of national security and the Joint Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and combatant commands. If the Army isn’t sending its leaders to broadening assignments early in their careers they will continue to lose the “Pentagon wars.”
In short, the Army needs to ask itself some direct questions: How many T-shaped leaders are necessary for the organization? What skills should these T-shaped leaders have? What experiences do they need to develop the T-shape that we want?
The figure below provides a way to categorize leaders’ developmental experiences.
The Army’s current mental model is self-constraining. Too strongly emphasizing combat arms (i.e., operational) experience diminishes the chances of selecting strategic leaders whose experience has made them especially adaptive—something a previous chief of staff argued that the Army needed over a half-decade ago.
This is where we return to the subject at hand. With a systems thinking approach, the Army would unpack the population and observe a more significant number of black officers in other branches and develop them to lead at the enterprise’s strategic level.
Ask Army officers what is generally held as the marker of a successful career, and most will say promotion to lieutenant colonel. Those selected for this rank and for battalion command become the pool from which brigade commanders, and subsequently general officers and division commanders, are selected. But have we been selecting battalion commanders in the best way? Arguably, no.
That’s why, earlier this year, the Army Talent Management Task Force introduced the Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP). Previously, the Army was choosing battalion commanders—a major factor in promotion to colonel—with minimal information. BCAP provides more data points for better selections and represents an acknowledgement that the process could be improved, as the pool represents the “seed corn of the Army.” Yet there was one effect it didn’t have: enhancing diversity at the battalion command level.
Research shows that diverse teams are the most effective teams. A service that has a lack of diverse leaders is more likely to have blind spots. So, is the system that we have to pick battalion and brigade commanders fit for today’s fight? Or could it be improved further, in the same spirit BCAP was designed to improve it?
Diversity in a VUCA World
In a global operating environment that is hallmarked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, the Army will require innovative thinking to overcome the challenges it faces. That means it needs diverse teams.
Achieving that diversity will require real change, not circulating memoranda, conducting studies, or holding panel discussions. We have offered two ways to begin: increasing diversity among combat arms officers and rethinking the way strategic leaders are developed and selected. Until the Army believes that increasing diversity will increase lethality, the future will remain the same: a diverse force led by white combat arms officers. If we open our aperture to think broadly and honestly about strategic leadership, the Army will give black officers, and others, a fighting chance.
Col. Hise O. Gibson is currently an Academy Professor of Systems Engineering at the US Military Academy. His prior positions include Battalion Command of 3-82 GSAB, 82CAB, 82ABN, and S3/XO for 5-158 GSAB, 12CAB. He was commissioned as an aviation officer upon graduation from the US Military Academy and holds a Master of Science in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, Master of Operational Arts and Sciences from the Air Command and Staff College, and a doctorate in Technology and Operations Management from Harvard Business School.
Daniel E. White is currently a fellow at the Department of Defense. His prior positions include political-military affairs analyst at US Southern Command, Engagement Officer for the 52nd Field Artillery Commandant, Fire Support Officer and Fire Direction Officer in 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He was commissioned as a field artillery officer upon graduation from the US Military Academy and holds a Master of Public Administration in International Security Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Catrina Dubiansky, U.S. Army Cadet Command Public Affairs
My company commander is black. I’m in the infantry. This isn’t a problem because it doesn’t matter what race happens to be in positions it matters the effectiveness of the individual. The only discrimination the army is facing is articles like this saying that our chain of command is inadequate. Which it is but it wouldn’t magically change if they were all black
Good point….and we'll presented.
Maybe because YOU choose your job in the army before you sign the contract, and maybe black people CHOOSE not to join combat MOS?
I have to disagree. Too many times we as soldiers see the leadership of white officers and felt their influence handed down and the lack of black officer influence due to there not being enough available. There is plenty of encouragement to join as an enlisted soldier, but slim to no encouragement to pursue a career as a black officer. There are many potential soldiers that would make great officers, if only afforded the opportunity to serve in that capacity.
There is.no perfect system
Em but the minute you tell the chiefs of command to fix this problem (as in discrimination) that's when you open up a whole new can of rotten beans. Fir example take a look at the disproportionate numbers of whites vs: blacks in most city governments. They are upside down with the greater number being blacks.
The thing that needs to be done is to penalize those who are in charge of these hiring practices.
Just because YOUR CDR is black doesn't mean there still isn't a systemic issue when it comes to diversity among senior ranks. That's like saying there can't be systemic racism, LeBron James made is a multimillionaire. Yes, but he's one of the selected few. Look at the statistics.
Listen to some Jocko podcasts.about Marines and Navy seals and the like,it's a colorblind brotherhood of love and respect,for humble leadership.their are no shortcuts.
In the Army there is a program called Equal Opportunity, AR 600-20. Everybody have the same opportunity to progress, rank up if they have the physical and mental quality to lead regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin. The opportunity is there for everybody!!!
African Americans don't want to be Combat Arms? Why is this an Issue. When you Graduate from College the Army gives you 13 Choices of Branch in order of Merit, then the Army Chooses according to needs of the Army. So Who is Choosing Combat Branches? If African Americans wanted to pick a Combat Arms Branch ,They can do so, obviously they are not choosing to. Case Closed,
Seriously? So this was written by authors who never served in a combat MOS? No credibility. This is not a diveristy issue. Combat has never been.
Special forces doesn't count as combat?
Let me get this right. If we had "too many" Americans of African descent in Combat Arms then it would be a sign discrimination. How is a VOLUNTARY occupation in need of "diversification".?
Back in the mid 1980s, a colleague, who was USMA graduate, Airborne/Ranger Quartermaster captain pointed out that logistics was more strategic choice for him because he saw the his future with industry. And where would today's task force or military installation be without it civilian or contractor component?
What a terribly written piece of clickbait. I've spoken to tons of African Americans about their branch and specialty choices and the number one answer always dealt with the potential careers after the military. I find it insulting to insinuate that African Americans are incapable of making their own decisions and they need the Army to "help" them make better choices.
People often need to be pushed to serve in a role more likely to lead to their death. But some choose it.
In a free country, Do we really want to push people into a career choice that carries with it a high risk of death against their true desire, when there are plenty of capable people that are willing to do it.
Is this goal to make our armed forces better , or to satisfy the ideological yearnings of people without skin in the game?
That’s critical race theory for ya
SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF ….. You can smell the burning cross in the white sheeted comment section
What a terrible argument. Either remove the freedom of choice in your career path or change the rules?
There are a multitude of reasons why black officers may choose what is best for them in their career path. Who are you to question their ability to make sound decisions? Or is it that you think they need help from some kind-hearted white men to do what's best for them?
The command staff has been chosen from amongst the combat arms since the army's inception for a reason. When the shooting starts they are far more likely to know what an army is capable of and needs at the knife's edge to defeat an enemy.
The military at large knows that you cannot effectively lead combat troops without their respect. Respect is earned by walking in the same mud, sweating the same sweat, and bleeding the same blood.
Imagine being ordered into a borderline suicidal defense of a strategic asset, but you've got a leader who has spent his entire career studying tactics and is fighting alongside you or at least had been in a similar conflict before. His mere presence shows you that someone with experience believes in the mission with their very life.
Oppose that with being led by someone who's only experience with conflict was when Starbucks ran out of soy milk and they had to decide if they still wanted their frappuccino.
How likely are the men on the ground to believe that a leader that has never been in their shoes has any regard for their lives?
One huge problem is this, more black officers in combat arms means, more black officers in deadly situations. This means more likelihood of death. How long do we guess it would be before the Army is accused of carelessly sending black officers out to be killed? Some cherry-picked statistics would “prove” Army racism because of the increase in black officer deaths because of their move to combat arms, and more lemmings would cry foul. Just let the disparity exist. Get off the endless search for some racialized utopia….
If non white officer candidates through the USMA, ROTC, and OCS don't choose to pursue a combat arms career, who is the Army leadership to second guess them? All the candidates know that the best track to senior leadership is through combat arms. If these candidates have other priorities, that's THEIR business. It is sad to see this fixation with race permeating personnel analysis. When I served in the late 70s/early 80s, it was a total non issue for ALL parties involved.
And yet black officers that were there at that time were ostracized because they were black.
No matter the race, the Combat Arms should be filled only with those who have been selected to serve there through an extensive selection process as described by the Close Combat Lethality Task Force recommendation back in 2018. The correct incentive will get them there…..just like professional sports combine. Only those with the grit and determination and talent will succeed.
#1 answer – lack of a realistic outcome = $; is why minorities aren't filling the Combat Arms.
#2 answer – where are you supposed to learn about the Artillery, Infantry, Ranger Battalion, Cav when your HBCU ROTC cadre are all Army Sustainers and Black? You're leaving civilian life and again, you don't know the game and are behind.
Ribbons, tabs, badges and berets aren't enough. Small percentage without a college degree have returned to the hood and were hired earning $80K+ at 25 yrs old. That percentage is much higher if you become a Signal Officer and earn a special certification, earn another degree while in (because you have the time compared to a combat arms officer/NCO/Soldier).
There's plenty of articles out there speaking about this problem and a few address some of the issues.
This is America.
Look, it's definitely necessary to provide adequate mentorship for new officers, regardless of their skin color. What isn't need is an arbitrary diversity quota. The military is discriminatory, not in a racist or sexist sense but in a very real, general sense. It cant be a bastion of equality because equality means soldiers die and wars are lost. The military needs to fight wars and to do that it requires competent leadership. I don't care who leads me. All I care about is if they lead me well. If you know your job, then you should be promoted. If you cant, then go somewhere else.
I’m naturally assuming when I read this piece is that the authors have never heard of The Rocks, Inc.
The Rocks Incorporated (Rocks, Inc.), was founded on October 9, 1974 by sixty-five United States Army officers in Washington, D.C. Headquartered in Forestville, Maryland and with over 1,100 members, it is the largest professional military officers’ organization with a majority African-American membership.
The purpose of this organization is mentorship. One of the things said to be lacking. As previous responders have stated, we submit a dream sheet and we get placed in accordance with the needs of the Army. Not everyone wants combat arms branches.
I myself would not prefer combat arms. AVIATION. maybe. AG for sure. I was on ROTC, you go where the ARMY needs you. Fastest way to make rank is through Combat Specialties.
The Army, in general, has an overrepresented African American population relative to the general public, but not in the officer core. The problem comes down to a lower level of access to better high school and college education for African American. Without that background of education, nobody would be as likely to be put in intensive officer positions. The problem comes from systemic racism before even reaching the army. (Not saying the army is perfect either)
the army pays for your education. How about you use Google. It's free
It's not education or systemic racism.
Blacks make up 11% of the officer corps and 12.7% of the general population. It's not that big a difference.
Compare that to Hispanics that only make up 7% of the officer corps and 16.7% of the population. What's the systemic racism happening there?
In 1967 the army played games with certain draftees that didnt score well. They were called McNamaras hundred thousand and were put in combat arms. You could always tell who they were by their serial number. They started with 67. Many of these people just didnt test well and others had no idea about personal hygiene.
Now the army is playing with our troops again based on skin color. The military is never going to be perfect. Stop playing games with our military. You cant give a black or white skinned military academy graduate the cyclic in a blackhawk helicopter and say "Son, your a pilot now, go fight"! Leave the Army Officer corp alone. It will be fine.
They choose what branch they want! Let them do what they want and stop racializing everything.
It is because Black officer choice not to go into the combat arms field. Period
BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) Let Black folks decide what they want or don't want 2 do.
Why are white people making decisions for anybody else?
I spent 30+ years in Army, Navy, USAF and USMC.
I've served next to every group, culture, nationalities and religions over 4 Continents.
Black folks aren't in Combat Arms or Special Operations because they don't have a Death Wish or seek Glory.
No reasonable, sane or Logical person relishes Combat Arms.
It's not something you try. It's something you are.
HOOAH!! OORAH !! HOOYAH !!
In combat, you don't want diversity… you want unity. Jobs involving combat should be a based on a meritocracy and desire because lives depend on it.
If POC don't want to jump into these dangerous positions they shouldn't be forced or manipulated to for diversity's sake.
Dude, get over it, if African Americans don't wanna join combat MOS then leave them, it's their decision. People should really stop trying with this diversity nonsense. If people wanna joint combat MOS then they will, if not well then oh well. Combat MOS usually get senior leadership positions because of their experience in real missions as opposed to
just simple field training as most other MOS do. It has nothing to do with race.
Interesting that one commenter references 1967. That's close – I'd place the current US Army as a near replicant of the 1970s, post-Vietnam Army. Inbred, inadequate and non-responsive. Increased amounts of technology and continued shuffling of responsibilities under trendy new business structures isn't going to change a thing.
JUST STOP IT!!! I served 22yrs in combat arms & I've seen plenty. I served with Roscoe Robinson (1st black commander of the 82nd Abn Div), Colin Powell (commander of V Corps), just to name few. We are & were all OD green/camouflage
Concur with authors–mixed message abound…
I'm sick and tired of all this black/white racist talk and articles! Grow up peoples! The Army is one color…GREEN!
This is only the beginning of addressing an issue existing and have been for years. Unfortunately, there are some people making comments and don't even know that there are some African-American males who want to be in a Combat Arms branch and have been turned down as "unqualified". Really!!! there are a number of Caucasian male officers who don't know of African-American males that want to be in a Combat Arms branch but quick to comment. They don't understand because they lacked the understanding of racial diversity within the branch. They are privileged because of the color of their skin, so to them, if there's no blacks in the branch, they don't want to join. Sad!!!! Not only that, there's so many Caucasian male Generals who will say the issue is being addressed down to the lowest level. In order to find out if anything is being addressed, you got to go to the source which is the lowest level and there the truth is revealed. Leadership don't want to look bad or seem incompetent of handling situation like these so they will beat words around and find ways to keep service members quiet and punishable. But, the media is still in the dark about how a lot of African American officers are not being evaluated as "Above Center Mass" but there's a lot of Caucasian male making that mark.
Many are not going to agree with my comment but I'm okay with differences of opinions.
As someone who is completing his fourth decade associated with the military both in and out of uniform, my casual observation is that there are fewer Americans of African descent serving in combat arms, many I was privileged to work for in both capacities. While I find my observation concerning, I am left to wonder what the causes are, given that observations of today's senior officers reflect various institutional personnel decisions going back 25-30 years.
For example……in the early and mid 1990s in was extraordinarily difficult to receive combat arms out of ROTC, as a disproportionate share of the reduced availability was allocated to USMA, who had to meet the legislative mandate of 80 percent of the class going into combat arms. While those USMA classes did include their share of AA officers, those USMA classes experienced exceptionally high service exit rates at ADSO termination which coincided with the hot economy of the late 90s. As ROTC retained at a higher rate, this probably affected the number of AA officers serving in combat arms mentoring positions later on. (I might hypothesize that this is caused a the downward spiral we see today.)
Finally, I wonder if any short term cure, beyond encouraging AA USMA, ROTC, and OCS cadets to consider combat arms, is worse than the current problem? While I think the free competition assessment for BN command is a positive change, if we are setting hard goals that branch immaterial commands have to be distributed equally among branches, or to achieve some type of diversity target over merit, then the system is lie.
There are some African American males who would like to be in the Combat Arms branch. Unfortunately, many white male officers get a lot of opportunity versus black male officers. Some white male officers believe there are not a lot of black males who want to be in the Combat Arms branch. This is not true. The problem is, they don't get the chance because the branches keep them from coming. Yes, there are few blacks in the branch but when you look at the Combat Arms branch as a whole, there's not much diversity. A couple of comments of people trying to justify the reason why may not understand especially if they are not an African-American officer. If they do their research, they will realize where the majority of those African American officers are branched. Unfortunately, a lot of them had to fight to get out of those branches from throughout history in which blacks were placed statiscally. Great article
Whole lot of accusation based on conjecture, without any reputable sources for your "facts", there, Sylvia.
How is this garbage allowed to maintain any affiliation with West Point? The concept of promoting diversity through direct, intentional recruitment and manipulation of minorities into combat arms is blatantly racist. The service is a colorblind brotherhood built on honor, respect, and mutual trust. Our past and our future are in immenent danger the moment we measure the efficacy of our leadership based on its range of skin tones.
Is officer candidate school still available?
The author failed to address WHY diversity is important. Is it really? Is a variety of skin colors more important than having people who genuinely want to be in a specific branch? No. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, we want the most qualified people for the job. Simply having more minorities doesn't make organizations better… Having highly qualified individuals does though.
Again, how does racial diversity in and of itself make an organization better at killing?
The authors do not mention a key point in their argument for identifying and developing T-shaped leaders for senior general officer positions in the institutional Army: making any such changes effective requires a complete overhaul of officer career management policies and the laws upon which they are based. The current system is still largely the career ladder established in the late 1940s. There is no way to make T-shaped leaders competitive for promotion in an "up or out" system which leaves most officers starting a civilian career before they turn fifty. How in twenty years will officers complete all these broadening assignments AND get the troop unit time they need to develop tactical and technical expertise AND complete necessary PME AND populate the many vital yet unglamorous jobs that must be done in the TDA Army? Then there is the question of culture—the authors rightly want more African American officers in the combat arms but they also want to deemphasize the importance of combat arms in selecting officers to fill senior institutional positions. Yet for generations the heroic combat commander has been the dominant model for officers, even if a majority of them are not in the close combat branches. Should the Army reconsider the radical aspects of the original OPMS proposal that made battalion and brigade command a functional area for which officers are selected as senior captains? Should the service then create a promotion/assignment process that gives this functional area no advantage over other functional areas? Would such a system create an officer corps divided against itself (one of the concerns that killed the command as a functional area proposal) where officers identified as T-shaped leaders become the new elite? Finally, whatever steps the Army takes in revising its practices for identifying and developing future general officers, it is civilians, not soldiers, who select which officer will be the next Chief of Staff.
If things haven't changed all that much since I put aside my greens (that'll tell you something), every potential officer has some level of training on U.S. military history. If the syllabus for that course included the role of African-Americans (and other non-white people) in our military history it might go a long ways to counter the "no future in that for me" attitude that's discussed above. If you expose young men and women on the road to commissioning to the multi-racial history of our Army – the good and the bad – you open their eyes to a wider range of possibilities than just what they see around them.
Just as one wouldn’t discuss heart attacks without a solid grounding in biology data, one cannot discuss the choice patterns of thousands or even millions without statistical evidence. The key factor is the CHOICES of black cadets. For what ever reason, they make choices they feel are best for them at the time. All cadets, no matter their color, make choices influenced by multiple factors, which includes their immediate environment, peers, talent, desire, and culture….and then many more factors. One factor ignored here was culture, another was the job description of the branches, and another was economics. Normalizing first race, one might see a relationship between academic major and branch, between socio-economic level and branch, or between other factors besides role models. It’s not simple. It depends on why someone wants to join the Army in the first place. Someone from a poorer family may be both more likely to enlist than compete for a commission, and may be more likely to consider civilian job skill transferability than someone from a middle class family. Admissions policies of colleges towards minorities also matters. If a student with below average SAT scores for a certain major/school is admitted to school and joins ROTC That Cadet competes, in part, among the other cadets in that school. If that cadets grades are below average, because their ability to perform on the SAT (a proxy for IQ) is less than fellow Cadets, then they may not get their first pick of branches. This happens regardless of color. The best pick first. Those who aren’t the best, among a specific peer group, know it. This hurts confidence, and one should have confidence to lead in the combat arms. This dynamic exists regardless of race, but admissions policies do not.
There are reasons other than; (1) the system is racist ; and (2) black men don’t love America enough to choose the dangerous branches.
Without statistics, properly used, you merely have conjecture. You should have learned this in grad school.
It’s complicated, and the bottom line is it’s getting better, but not a quickly as some may like, because when multiple interrelated causes exist things take longer to change. Forcing it presumes a level of knowledge that isn’t there.
A good approach might be to write articles about how much you’ve enjoyed the challenge being an FA officer, while neither emphasizing nor obscuring race beyond the simple fact that black cadets, for a multitude of reasons, don’t choose FA but you’d think many would love it and succeed if they asked for it first.
I felt compelled to comment. I don't know much about systemic racism. I do know a lot about leadership.
I had the privilege of serving as an Enlisted ROTC instructor at an HBU, (in fact I served with LTC Anyabwile mentioned in this article.)
What I report is admittedly anecdotal and represents an exceedingly small sample of African American Officers.
There were two reasons the cadets from the HBU were not choosing combat arms, first, they were being dissuaded by African American mentors both civilian and military. Second, many were not achieving academically and therefore not meeting the standard set to become a combat arms officer.
I was surprised to find that the standard to become combat arms and the infantry in particular was one of the highest behind only military intelligence as I recall. I came to realize the high standards were because the combat arms officers stood the best chance of becoming General Officers and would lead the Army of the future.
I don't believe good mentors must be of the same skin color, it just has to be someone who truly cares. I say so because I witnessed African American Officers who did not give a rip about our cadets. The cadre which was largely African American was unwilling or unable to conduct good field training, as a result our cadets were not performing well at summer camp. And I heard heard civilians mentors make statement to the effect that the cadets should be seeking six figure jobs in the civilian market and assignments in logistics would be better long term investments.
It was a problem of leadership.
I witnessed other African American officers make a positive difference. Officers like LTC Anyabwile for instance, he cared about the cadets individually and was a great role model not only for the cadets but for myself as well. He slept in the field, on the ground literally, with the cadets. He showed them how to be soldiers. I also witnessed the positive effect white officers who cared had on the cadets. It was a question of leadership. The greatest mentors to the cadets, in my opinion was a signal officer LTC Jeffrey Williams. Then Captain Anyabwile and LTC Williams were not great African American Officers, they were great officers.
Both provided positive male role models which is something sadly lacking not just in African American families but in all American families. Leadership starts in the home. Boys and girls with fathers in the home do better in school. You need good grades to make the selection to be combat arms, at least that was the case in my experience.
GREAT answer Thomas Myers
I see a stunning number of black military personnel in the IT field in the Army, to include ARCYBER. The majority of soldiers and officers at ARCYBER are mostly black service men/women. The IT field is the one that pays off the most in the end unless you get really lucky and become a General of CSM at the General level. I dont see anything wrong with how things are. To me, black service men/women are being setup in much better position than anyone else. How many retired FA E7's do you see making as much and have more options than a 4 year and out IT soldier? None.