U.S. Military Makes Racial Find, But Won’t Give Full Details

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hick appointed a panel to investigate racial bias in the armed forces court system in May 2022. The group’s focus is on getting to the root of the problem. 

According to the Pentagon’s final assessment on Thursday, the Internal Review Team (IRT) concluded significant racial inequities in the investigative and military justice systems in their final report dated August 2022. 

Hicks responded on June 8 that actions like this dishonor service personnel, hurt military morale, and decrease public support for the military. 

A recent Pentagon poll found that incidents of sexual assault were on the rise among service personnel.

Studies conducted by the Government Accountability Office in 2019 and the Centre for Naval Analyses in 2022 indicated that blacks, Hispanics, and males were investigated or court-martialed more than Caucasians or women servicemembers. It was determined that there was no difference in the likelihood of a guilty verdict between black and white enlisted members. There is debate over the significance of racial inequities in military justice because of the severity of punishments for people of different races.

Specifically, the IRT noted a lack of consistency in how different parts of the military collect and assess data related to race and promotion within the military justice system.

Although the Department of Defence (DOD) has access to data demonstrating discrepancies, the IRT claims that the DOD has a poor grasp of where and why these disparities emerge within its systems.

The analysis finds that an individual servicemember’s immediate superiors have a crucial role in shaping the servicemember’s military career trajectory before being subjected to non-judicial discipline or court-martial. When handling misbehavior and performance difficulties, especially with newly enlisted members who are still adjusting to military requirements, lower-level supervisors are responsible for making individual choices. The members’ professional futures may hang in the balance of these judgments.

The IRT found that junior enlisted servicemembers were worried that their superiors were working without monitoring and making disciplinary judgments based on subjective rather than objective criteria in focus groups.

Hicks is following the IRT’s recommendations to improve the investigation and trial procedures.