In 2013 the Air Force Academy announced “The United States Air Force Academy Diversity and Inclusion Plan (D&I),” a five year plan to be implemented in accordance with President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13583 dated August 18, 2011. The detailed program encompasses every organization within the Academy system and grants plenary powers to a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) whose task is to serve as USAFA’s strategic leader, diversity advocate, and principal advisor to the USAFA leadership. The CDO provides oversight of USAFA’s recruitment of all cadets. The Academy Superintendent at the time, Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, further directed the CDO to “provide strategic oversight in updating the USAFA Diversity Plan and promote effective diversity, equality of opportunity, and inclusion across the USAFA.”
General Gould emphasized the USAFA D&I Plan applied to both the permanent party workforce and the Cadet Wing. He noted the “known benefits of diversity, and he added, “Diversity throughout our Air Force is a military necessity…recruiting, retaining, developing, and graduating a diverse cadet corps is as important for Air Force leadership training as it is for the quality of academic education.” The word “merit” is not found in the superintendent’s remarks, although the EO specifies all aspects of the program must be consistent with merit system principles and applicable law.
The D&I defines diversity broadly and slices the identity pie into ever thinner slices but argues diversity alone is insufficient. General Gould elaborated, “…the USAFA must increase diversity among its faculty, staff and administration and develop inclusive practices.” The academy’s vision statement reflects this sentiment, “Our vision is to help create and sustain an institution that encompasses and values our cultural differences while promoting a climate of inclusion.”
Quotas constitute a target value, minimum number, or percentage of people, and are illegal in this narrowly defined context, yet the D&I is replete with references to both percentages and numbers. The Academic Review Committee (ARC) must, ”…weigh “whole person” considerations during reviews of cadet academic deficiencies.” ARC is tasked to “perform statistical analyses of disenrollement [sic] decisions to see if differences exist in decisions made across gender or different ethnicities.” A computational determination is mandated to ensure there are no statistical differences in expulsion decisions based on gender or ethnicity. The same section establishes that the “percentage of eligible and interested minority cadets participating in the Academic Scholars Program (ASP) must be in line with the percentage of eligible and interested cadets overall in ASP. The Admissions Department is required to establish a direct correlation between applicant demographics and that of the Air Force’s enlisted population. The D&I further instructs the Commandant to violate this simple proportionality: “Strive to fill USAFA/CW, AOC, and AMT positions from a pool of qualified, diverse applicants who meet or exceed the current diversity composition of the Air Force.”
According to the D&I, reaching a “critical mass” of diverse educators, role models, and leaders of character is a priority at USAFA. Faculty and staff must value human diversity—in all its many dimensions—and inclusively engage and encourage cadets to develop an array of diverse leadership competencies. Daryl G. Smith speaks to the centrality of D&I at the academy, “As long as diversity remains a separate component of institutional work, unrelated to other elements, it seems likely that it will remain marginalized and that core institutional processes will remain unaffected by diversity.”
The D&I touches every aspect of cadet life. Do the goals, expenses, and diversion of resources justify the following claims cited in the D&I Plan? “Literature suggests an inclusive organizational culture yields several benefits, such as broader perspectives, better decision making, increased job satisfaction, and overall retention. Inclusiveness should foster greater retention at USAFA…”
A recent Gallup Poll noted that for the last two years racial relations are at the lowest point in two decades. The reasons are varied and complex, but a polarizing media and academic indoctrination share much of the blame. Morale at U.S. military academies suffers when men and women prioritize loyalty based on group identity, and individuals witness preferential treatment based on these considerations. Dr. Russel Eisenmann noted, “Failure to recognize the difference between equal opportunity and quotas results in policies that can generate racial separation…” An article in Ballotpedia concluded, “Polls have shown that while there is general support for affirmative action, support drops considerably when the question mentions preferences.”
In 2016 the Rand Corporation examined admissions standards at USAFA to determine which ones would enhance graduation rates and retention in the Air Force. Without considering race specifically and focusing on retention, the study noted that objective academic and leadership scores were the best predictors of success, while judging future performance based on subjective measures was fraught with inaccuracies and should be deemphasized in the selection process.
Noting the singular purpose of the academy to train career officers, Jacob Rodriguez analyzed specific predictors of success and failure to achieve this goal. He noted no evidence per se that diversity led to enhanced outcomes, but rather race was a negative predictor for academy graduates to serve successfully in the active duty Air Force, which was defined as fulfilling a 20 year career and reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. He observed, however, that serving in aviation related careers was highly predictive of success, but minority cadets were less apt to enter these fields. He recommended steps to encourage more cadets to pursue flying careers. The strongest indicator of failing to achieve a successful Air Force career was attendance at the USAFA Prep School, whose student body coincidently consists of a disproportionate number of NCAA athlete recruits.
Recent events have exposed blatant politicization at the Air Force Academy. The Board of Visitors, one of the last vestiges of external oversight, has been illegally disbanded and many of its members asked to resign. The presence of D&I policies has led to the promotion of Social Justice Theories within the academic, military training, and athletic departments – an action not vested within the original charter of the D&I Plan. To date there is little evidence that D&I has improved morale and Air Force retention, nor have subjective, “whole person” admissions criteria shown to enhance the academy’s primary mission. Where is the proof that the D&I plan’s objectives have been achieved and that equal opportunity has not given way to preferences and quotas?