Equal Opportunity:

DOD Studies on Discrimination in the Military

NSIAD-95-103: Published: Apr 7, 1995. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO identified studies done, sponsored, or commissioned by the Department of Defense in the past 20 years on discrimination in the military.

GAO found that: (1) it identified 72 studies, dating from 1974 to 1994, related to the issue of equal opportunity in the military; (2) GAO categorized the studies, based on their content, into the areas of equal opportunity climate, training, sexual discrimination and harassment, promotions, discipline, and recruitment; (3) the following are some of the general observations made in the studies: (a) blacks and women tended to hold negative perceptions regarding equal opportunity in the military. Poor training and lack of visible chain of command participation led to decreased emphasis on the Army's equal opportunity program; (b) racial harmony training in the Army improved effectiveness in dealing with racial problems. Human relations training in the Air Force seemed to give sufficient attention to service-specific issues and applications; (c) sexual harassment is a problem in all services, and efforts to prevent it have not been totally effective. Most victims did not take formal action because they anticipated a negative outcome; (d) performance ratings and fitness reports of women serving in the Navy contained gender-type language that may have negatively affected their career paths and opportunities for promotion; (e) when compared to their white counterparts, black servicemembers were overrepresented in courts-martial with respect to certain types of offenses; and (f) white males are likely to continue to make up the majority of servicemembers. Hispanic males will probably not increase their representation in the military despite the relatively rapid growth of the Hispanic population because their service eligibility rates are lower than those of white males; (4) the military services reported taking complete or partial action on 26 of the 38 studies that contained recommendations; (5) they could not provide information on the status of the recommendations in the other 11 reports; (6) the recommendation in one report is obsolete due to a change in policy; and (7) in addition, the cognizant organizations could not locate or provide copies of three reports.

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