WASHINGTON – The Air Force inspector general will do a second investigation into racial and ethnic disparities across the force, service leaders said Friday, expanding the review to include gender and additional racial categories such as Asian and American Indian.
The latest review comes just two months after the IG released a report concluding that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct. The December report found that “racial disparity exists” for Black service members but that the data did not explain why it happens.
The new study also reflects broader campaigns within the Defense Department and the Biden administration to root out extremism and racism. President Joe Biden declared domestic extremism an urgent national security threat in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The crowd that breached the building as lawmakers were preparing to certify the election was overwhelmingly white and included members of far-right groups.
Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, who ordered the latest review, said the IG will go directly to Air Force and Space Force service members for input. A survey that will go out to the force soon will look at several different categories: Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino and gender.
“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.” Guardians are members of the Space Force.
The Pentagon is also grappling with a wider effort to expand diversity within the ranks, and a campaign to tackle racism and extremism. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, earlier this month, ordered military leaders to spend time talking to their troops about extremism in the ranks, after a number of former and current military members took part in the U.S. Capitol assault.
Austin said units must take a day during February or March for the so-called “stand down.”
In addition, the Defense Department late last year endorsed a new slate of initiatives to more aggressively recruit, retain and promote a more racially and ethnically diverse force. And it called for a plan to crack down on participation in hate groups by service members and draft proposed changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The report by the Air Force inspector general that was released in December said Black members of the Air Force and Space Force are less likely to be promoted to higher enlisted and officer ranks, and one-third of them believe they don’t get the same opportunities as their white peers.