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Air Force to review discipline, opportunities for African-American airmen

Air Force to review discipline, opportunities for African-American airmen
Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said has put together an advisory group for input on racial disparities in discipline and advancement opportunities in the military branch. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

June 10 (UPI) -- Air Force officials have ordered an independent review of racial disparity in U.S. Air Force records on military discipline and advancement opportunities, the branch announced this week.

The review calls for an examination to "assess and capture existing racial disparities, assess Air Force-specific causal factors like culture and policies, assimilate the analysis and conclusions of previous racial disparity studies by external organizations, and make concrete recommendations resulting in impactful and lasting change," Air Force officials said on Tuesday.

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It was ordered by Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and service chiefs Gen. David Goldfein and Gen. Jay Raymond.

The IG's office has assembled an advisory group of 24 high-ranking African-American Air Force officers, and as part of the review will seek input from airmen and U.S. Space Force personnel through interviews and surveys.

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"We want to make sure our Air and Space Professionals are able to share their experiences and concerns, and we want to empower them to be a part of the solution. Their voices will be heard and captured for the record," Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said said in a press release. "We have a tremendous opportunity here, and we will not waste it."

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A letter this week to the Judge Advocate General Corps from Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Rockwell, the top lawyer of the Air Force, noted that a disparity in judicial punishments between white and black airmen needs to be addressed.

"The statistics show that black male Airmen under the age of 25 and with less than 5 years of service receive NJP [nonjudicial punishment] and courts-martial actions at a higher rate than similarly situated white male Airmen," Rockwell wrote in part.

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The letter also noted that in calendar year 2019, the NJP rate was a 23.1 per 1,000 personnel for black airmen and 12.23 per 1,000 for those who were white.

"How did we get here?" he wrote. "How are these types of offenses normally addressed in the unit? How did we get to the point that this particular disciplinary action became an Article 15 [a non-judicial military punishment resolving allegations of minor misconduct] or a court?"

The order came as protests against racial disparity have impacted the United States following the death of George Floyd Jr., who died on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

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A non-governmental group, Protect Our Defenders accused the Air Force of attempting to cover up racial bias in its justice system in a May report.

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On June 2, Gen. Charles Q. Brown was chosen as U.S. Air Force chief of staff, the first African-American in the position.

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