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Air Force Investigation Finds Black Members Face Racial Disparity In Service

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Photo by Michael Sohn AP

An investigation by the inspector general for the U.S. Air Force showed Black service members in the service are far more likely to be investigated or face disciplinary actions, among other disparities.

Black members of the U.S. Air Force are treated differently than their white counterparts in a wide range of areas, including promotions and military justice, a new internal investigation reveals.

The 150-page report by the Air Force inspector general confirmed racial disparities exist for Black members in law enforcement apprehensions, criminal investigations, military justice, administrative separations, placement into occupational career fields, certain promotion rates, professional military educational development and leadership opportunities.

For example, Black Air Force service members were 72% more likely to receive Article 15 nonjudicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice than white service members. Black, Hispanic and male service members were also more likely than white and female members to be subjects of an investigation and tried in general and special courts-martial, the report found.

"We're analyzing root causes and taking appropriate actions to address these challenges," Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the branch's top officer, said in a statement. "Now we must all move forward with meaningful, lasting, and sustainable change."

The inspector general spoke directly with Black members of the Air Force, who voiced a consistent lack of confidence in the branch's discipline processes and developmental opportunities for them.

Two out of every five black members of the service don't trust their chain of command to address racism, bias and unequal opportunities, the report said. And three out of every five black members believe they do not and will not receive the same benefit of the doubt as their white peers if they get into trouble.

As part of the report's recommendations, the Air Force's leadership must develop action plans to address the disparities and schedule follow-up reviews to ensure changes are made.

Leaders of the Air and Space Forces ordered the review on June 2 following a nationwide reckoning with racial justice prompted in part by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

The Air Force was also facing external pressure. The nonprofit Protect Our Defenders released a report in May detailing how the service dropped the ball on earlier promises to address racial disparities in 2016.

Last week, the Pentagon published a report that detailed several areas where the Department of Defense must improve to level the playing field for service members of all races.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit


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