During a Congressional hearing on June 16, 2020, top legal officers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps acknowledged the results of a 2019 study from the Government Accountability Office, which noted that Black and Hispanic servicemembers of any gender were significantly more likely to be sent to court-martial for formal punishment after an act of misconduct than their white counterparts. The judge advocates of each of these wings of Armed Forces recognized that this is, indeed, a problem, and swiftly assured the Congressional panel that actions were already underway to uncover what could possibly have caused this striking racial disparity.
As the Army Times reports:
The Army is in the “very early stages of figuring out what could cause this,” Lt. Gen. Charles Pede, the service’s ranking attorney, told lawmakers.
Pede said he has already directed a “comprehensive assessment” in conjunction with the Army’s provost marshal general “to examine why the justice system is more likely to investigate certain soldiers and what our investigations and command decisions tell us about this issue.”
"[The GAO] report raises difficult questions — questions that demand answers. Sitting here today, we do not have those answers. So our task is to ask the right questions and find the answers," he added in his testimony.
Major General Daniel Lecce, the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, also said, "We have to get after this. We’re at the beginning, but there is a lot of work to be done. Commanders need to drive this."
Vice Admiral John G. Hannink, USN, the Judge Advocate General for the US Navy, released an 8-page statement on these injustices. "I can’t be under any illusions that we don’t have it in our Navy. … So the Navy emphatically and unequivocally denounces racism," he acknowledged during the Congressional hearing.
"Are we mentoring everybody the same? We all feel we probably aren’t, based on biases, but we don’t have specific data to show that," said Lieutenant General Jeffrey A. Rockwell, USAF, Judge Advocate General for the US Air Force, who also published a letter earlier this month detailing the statistical racial disparities in non-judicial punishment. (In 2019, the 14.7 percent of Airmen who are Black comprised 32.1 per 1,000 court martial actions, compared to 12.23 per 1,000 court martials for white Airmen. This, to me, qualifies as "data.")
All 4 legal representatives for the Armed Forces assured the Congressional panel that they would get to the bottom of this institutional racism.
Spoiler alert: the cause is institutional fucking racism that has infected our country at the core.
Frustrated advocates say racial biases within military justice system remain despite repeated alarms [Leo Shane III / Military Times]
This report says black and Hispanic service members are more likely to face trial [Meghann Myers / Military Times]
Subcommittee on Military Personnel Hearing: “Racial Disparity in the Military Justice System - How to Fix the Culture” [House Armed Services Committee]
Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons