Equal Opportunity:

Minority and Female Distribution Patterns in the Military Services

FPCD-81-6: Published: Dec 18, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 1980.


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The increasing debate about the viability of the All-Volunteer Force has raised many questions concerning the number and distribution of minorities and females in the Armed Forces. Very little information on the distribution of minorities and females has been officially and systematically provided to Congress. GAO conducted a study to determine whether more useful information on historic trends, current situations, and future projections could be provided from within the services and the Department of Defense (DOD), and whether they have the capability to project minority and female representation for use in formulating manpower policies.

GAO found that significant changes took place in both the number and distribution of minorities and females in the military forces between 1971 and 1979. Total minority and female representation in each service increased, while the active force size was reduced from 2.7 to 2 million members. The increases were more heavily concentrated in the enlisted force. This caused the proportion of minority enlisted personnel to be significantly higher than the proportion of the officer force, and the gap has grown wider each year since 1971. Several DOD publications have addressed minorities and females in the armed forces; however, none have extensively reported on their distribution. GAO found that computer models exist which could be used to satisfactorily estimate future distribution patterns. The models would, of necessity, employ variables to account for expected changes in such factors as accessions, attrition, length of tours, promotions, and duty assignments. In reviewing the DOD manpower requirements report for fiscal year 1980, GAO noted that there is a chapter on women in the military. It contains estimates on an aggregate basis by service through 1984, but not by rank or occupational groupings. Also, it does not project distribution patterns for minority officers and enlisted personnel.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide Congress, in the annual manpower requirements report, (1) historical data on the distribution (grade, rank, occupational speciality) of minorities and females; and (2) future projections for the distribution of minorities and females along with the methodology and models used, variables considered, and any assumptions made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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