Minority students underrepresented as nominees to military academies: analysis

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Minority students have been nominated to military service academies at disproportionately lower rates than their white counterparts for more than two decades, according to a study published Wednesday based on admissions data.

The report, published by the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, found that over a period of nearly 25 years, members of Congress have awarded just 6 percent of their military academy nominations to Black students and 8 percent to Hispanic applicants. White students received 74 percent of all lawmaker nominations.

One portion of the study looked at nominations from 2009-2019 and found that 32 percent of nominations from House Democrats were for students of color, compared to 15 percent among House Republicans.

In the Senate, 20 percent of nominations among Democrats were for minorities, compared with 13 percent among GOP senators.

The report noted that overall, both parties under-nominated students of color dating back to 1994.

In order to be considered for admission to a U.S. military academy, a student must be nominated by a member of Congress, the president, the vice president, a military service secretary or an academy superintendent.

The report said that due to the underrepresentation among military academy nominations, minority students “are denied the lifelong opportunities that an appointment can provide,” and that the minority students who do secure a nomination “often face discriminatory treatment during their service.”

“The lack of diversity in nominations deprives the military service academies of a diverse pool of qualified candidates — and divests our military of a diverse cohort of future leaders,” the report said. “Congress and the Department of Defense must implement broad and comprehensive policies to address the structural shortcomings of the current nominations system.”

The report’s recommendations for the Pentagon include publishing annual data on congressional nominations that include information such as race, ethnicity and gender, as well as an investigation on how the distribution of nominations impacts military academies’ diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The report’s authors also urged for passage of the Panorama Act, which would create a central nominations portal to collect demographic information on nominees, and establish a grant program within the Defense Department to increase congressional outreach to underrepresented applicants.

Liam Brennan, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the limited diversity in military academy nominations has a long-term impact on the U.S. military as a whole.

“Because many general officers graduate from the service academies, the congressional nominations bottleneck ultimately impacts diversity at the highest levels of military leadership,” Brennan said. “While some congressmembers are making good-faith efforts to promote students of color, the data point to a clear and urgent need for improvement across Congress and in the academy admissions process at large.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the AP that Congress aims to streamline and standardize the application for students “to make the process more uniform across the country.”

Tags Black students Congress Connecticut Defense Department Hispanic House military academies minorities Richard Blumenthal Senate The Associated Press U.S. Military Academy Yale Law School

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