Bean-Counting and the Military

by Roger Clegg

This is not exactly a higher-ed matter, but with the ROTC returning to campuses and the citation below of the University of Michigan cases, I thought it would be of interest:

The Military Leadership Diversity Commission, set up by Congress a couple of years ago and described in its press release as “an independent deliberative body of 31 members” including “active-duty and retired officers, senior enlisted personnel . . . as well as civilian representatives,” has issued its final report. The good news is that no one has to pay any attention to the report; the bad news is that the report and its recommendations are (predictably) awful.

From beginning (its nonsensical title is “From Representation to Inclusion”) to end, it is yet another celebration of diversity uber alles. The “diversity of our servicemembers is the unique strength of our military.” “The”? Diversity must be made “an institutional priority” and the military must “systematically develop diverse leadership that reflects the public it serves and the forces it leads” since diversity is needed “to move the Nation closer to embodying its democratic ideals.” If an institution is not diverse, you see, then it’s undemocratic.

The fact that we don’t have such politically correct racial, ethnic, and gender balance in our armed forces is a “problem.” And so to fix that problem there must be “accountability reviews” and “metrics” (and “collection of data needed to generate these metrics”) and “goals” (that is, “diversity management goals”) and “benchmarks” so that the “desired outcomes” can be reached and “explanation[s]” demanded if they aren’t — that is, for example, if there are male-female “gap[s]” or “group-specific deviations from overall averages.”   

In a word, plenty of bean-counting and quotas. And we all know that this means less qualified individuals who are “underrepresented” will be promoted over better qualified people who are “overrepresented,” with inevitable costs to morale and effectiveness. And indeed the report cites an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in support of the use of racial and ethnic preferences in the 2003 University of Michigan cases. It is lamented that many individuals are not eligible to serve and women generally excluded from combat, so the services are “to review and validate their eligibility criteria for military service” and “eliminate ‘combat exclusion policies’ for women.”

What’s more, the Commission’s report makes no attempt to address the legal and policy problem of preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex, even though it had before it background papers on this problem. The issue is simply ignored, even though it cannot be pretended that a focus on getting the numbers “right” will not result in such discrimination.

And, indeed, woe to those who bean-count is off. “The Services must embed diversity leadership in performance assessments throughout careers” and “should establish diversity leadership as a criterion for nomination and appointment to senior enlisted leadership positions and flag/general officers.” In particular, the Secretary of Defense should “report annually an assessment of the available pool of qualified racial/ethnic minority and female candidates for the 3- and 4-star flag/general officer positions”; and, “If there were no qualified racial/ethnic minority and/or female candidates, then a statement of explanation should be made in the package submitted to the Senate for the confirmation hearings.”

But, really, all you need to know is that the Commission wants “(1) an officer and enlisted corps that reflects U.S. population across all Service communities and ranks and (2) a military force that is able to prevail in its wars, prevent and deter conflict, defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies, and preserve and enhance the all-volunteer force.” Note well the order.

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