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The Navy and Diversity

October 07, 2023

In recent years, the Navy has put a lot of emphasis on “Diversity”.   If you visit the Navy’s recruiting website, www.navy.com, on the first page it has an entry, “Who we are”.  When you access that page, it contains three entries:

   Women in the Navy:  With a picture of five women sailors at sea.

   Diversity and Equity:  With a picture of a black female sailor in the foreground.

   Reserve:  With a picture of a black male sailor looking out over the sea.

Under “THE NAVY'S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY & EQUITYit says, “Why are diversity and equity important to the Navy?”, followed by this statement: “We believe that leveraging our diversity is the key to reaching the Navy’s peak potential, both as a workplace and as a defense force. We also believe that when leaders tap into the energy and capability of an actively inclusive team, we achieve top performance. We know that different perspectives shine light into our blind spots, illuminating what we wouldn’t otherwise see.”  No evidence is provided proving diversity has any connection with warfighting success.  The statement is one of wishful thinking.  The fact is there is a dearth of evidence that diversity has anything to do with warfighting effectiveness and lethality.  If readers know of such evidence, I would love to hear about it.

The Navy has a diversity policy statement.   It says: “The Department of the Navy (DON) is fully committed to creating and maintaining an environment which supports Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). The DON understands that its strength is dependent upon its people and the different perspectives, talents, and abilities they bring to the workplace. Prevailing today and adapting to the emerging security environment of tomorrow necessitates the continued attraction of our nation's increasingly inclusive and diverse workforce. The DON is committed to the inclusion of our diverse collection of Sailors, Marines, and Civilians into all aspects of the organization's operations. Successfully including all personnel creates an environment that motivates innovation and provides fresh perspectives, which allows the DON to reach its maximum warfighting potential. Practicing D&I principles allows the DON to fully leverage the wealth of knowledge, experience, and perspectives from all of our people. The DON's core values-Honor, Courage, and Commitment-reinforce our promise to respect others and provide equal opportunity for all people. Our commitment to each other is second to none, and we must match our dedication to an inclusive environment that assures the success of our core mission. Therefore, I ask every Sailor, Marine, and Civilian to join me in ensuring our workforce actively includes all perspectives in order to harness the powerful benefits of D&I.”  Again, no evidence is presented that a diverse force is more effective, more lethal to our enemies.  This is an example of pandering to the political left with no substance about how to achieve the goal of more diversity nor proof that attaining that diversity makes the Navy more dangerous to our enemies.

The Navy stood up an organization, Task Force One Navy (TF1N), In July 2020 with great fanfare to examine diversity and how to achieve it.  At its creation, the Navy had 8% black officers.[i]  The 2022 DOD Military Demographics Report shows the Navy now at 7.9% black officers.   The TF1N report had dozens of recommendations about how the Navy would improve the number of minority officers.  The only conclusion that can be reached by this outcome after more than 2 years is that the Navy is clueless about what it takes to attract more minorities to the Navy.  Maybe enticing more minorities to the Navy is more than cliques about diversity and inclusion. 

At the United States Naval Academy (USNA), the premier educational institution for training career naval officers, there is an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion headed by a CAPT with a staff of 5, all black.  What possible purpose could this office serve?  Those selected for USNA are already there, selected by the admissions staff based on the criteria established by the Navy for attendance.  The Navy’s thumb is already on the admissions scale in favor of two elite groups coveted by the Academy for two entirely different reasons.  The first group are the elite athletes who get in for their athletic prowess not their test scores or GPA.  This group already has a high percentage of minorities, a necessity to attempt to be successful in the elite sports like football and basketball.  This phenomenon of the USNA competing in Division I sports is entirely superfluous to training naval officers and only serves to pander to the alumni who desire such prestige sports to be provided by their alma mater.   The second group are certain minorities who get in because the standards for black and Hispanic minorities are lower than the standards for whites and Asians.  We know for a fact that standards for certain minorities are lower from the statements made by the U.S. Solicitor General’s statement to the Supreme Court arguing in favor of racial preferences for the military in the SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC cases.  Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar told the justices on Oct. 31. “So, it is a critical national security imperative to attain diversity within the officer corps. And, at present, it’s not possible to achieve that diversity without race-conscious admissions, including at the nation’s service academies.”  She offered this statement without proof that diversity adds to the lethality or effectiveness of our nation’s fighting forces.

The impression left of these glimpses of the Navy described above is one of pandering, of painting a false image of the Navy to attempt to appeal to women and minorities to join, to convince the public and potential recruits that the Navy is politically correct. 

Part 2

The dictionary defines diversity as, “the state or fact of being diverse:  difference: unlikeness.  Another definition and the one the Navy is presumably alluding to is: “the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.”

By policy and recruiting emphasis, the Navy tells you exactly what diversity they want.  First and foremost, they want skin color diversity.  How do we know this aside from the pictures at the recruiting website?  Because Task Force One Navy (TF1N) was all about attracting more blacks, Hispanics, and native Americans to Navy officer ranks only.  The report documents clearly that the Navy is already overrepresented in enlisted minorities.[ii]  Thus, its laser focus is promotion of the idea that the Navy needs more black and Hispanic officers although the preeminent emphasis seems to be for more black officers.  Why this conclusion?  On Admiral Gilday’s CNO watch he urged all hands to read How to be an Anti-racist by Ibram X. Kendi.  Kendi, is an avowed racist based on his own words.  He openly advocates for racism against whites and for the supremacy of blacks.  Kendi is an advocate for race-based discrimination, arguing “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”[iii]   Increasing the number of black officers apparently became the priority under ADM Gilday.  After the George Floyd tragedy, the Navy openly embraced support for Black Lives Matter.[iv]

In the latest DOD Military Demographics Report 2021, the Navy officer corps is still only 7.9% black versus the goal of 13% established by the TF1N report. Since the TF1N report, the Navy’s numbers still have not gone up.  The Army reports 12% of its officer corps is black in that same report so the Navy’s result seems unusual.  Overall, the 2021 report shows 13,361 minority officers in the Navy.  One would have to conclude that there are no meaningful barriers to qualified minorities to join the officer corps of the services since over 54,000 minority officers are currently serving.[v]  According to reports of the Department of Education, there were over 200,000 graduates with either bachelors or Masters degrees in school year 2020-2021.[vi]  With qualifications easily met by thousands of minorities each year, why is it that fewer blacks and Hispanics choose to serve?  There is zero credible evidence of barriers to service. Quite the opposite is the case with the services bending over backwards to try to recruit minorities especially with programs that reach out to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to try to attract minorities to the services.  The TF1N report contains 63 references to HBCUs and MSIs.[vii]  It is plain that the Navy claiming to want diversity is not convincing to most of those eligible to serve and that the Navy lags the Army substantially in providing a convincing argument on why serving the nation is a good idea.

The other diversities being sought are in sexual practice and gender diversity.  This comes through loud and clear at the website, in recruiting media and images and through such phenomenon of the military’s celebration of pride month and lately even promotion of drag queen shows on board ships and a drag queen being used for recruiting (which the Navy has now retreated from due to negative reaction from the public).  Added to that is the nonsensical promotion of popular progressive practice of what pronouns to use and the farcical and unserious nature of our current leadership becomes clear.  Just days ago, DOD had to retreat when it was pointed out its new pronoun policy for awards was both ungrammatical and unpopular with the public.  Even our outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff objected.

If diversity is such a priority, why only pick out blacks, gays, and transgenders to emphasize?  The definition above includes the categories of national origin, religion, and socioeconomic stratum.  Why no commercials to get Christians or Muslims to join?  Why no ads to attract immigrants?  Why are there no recruiters in the inner cities among high concentrations of young socio-disadvantaged minorities?   The answer is plain that the diversity push is motivated by the popular canard promoted by the left that the US is still a racist nation and must provide racial preferences to minorities.  The recent Supreme Court cases Harvard v. Students for Fair Admissions and UNC v. Students for Fair Admissions emphatically ruled against using race in college admissions as violations of equal protection law.

Part 3

The truth is that the racial and sexual identity politics advocates have gained control over our nation’s culture, and this has seeped into our military where it does not belong.

Although we hear a lot about systemic racism and white supremacy there is no evidence that such is present in the today’s military.  DOD’s own internal review shows that fewer than 2% of serving DOD personnel identify racism as a problem in DOD.[viii]  DOD’s extremism standdown and subsequent reporting revealed fewer than 100 incidents of extremism in the last reporting year out of a DOD force of over 2.1 million, an astonishingly tiny number.[ix] 

So, why all the fuss over diversity, diversity, diversity when the services are already substantially diverse, have few internal complaints of racism or extremist activity?  Could it be purely a conformity reflex and a reflection of the hold the left has over our military leadership that is supposed to be apolitical?

Nowhere at the Navy site is proof offered that Diversity is essential for combat effectiveness?  We do have a lot of counter evidence that diversity advocacy is flawed or counter to fielding a lethal military such as:


  • Col (Ret) Bill Prince, U. S. Army Special Forces with 11 combat deployments, attended the recent USMA Diversity conference.  In his recent article he quotes the USMA’s Chief Data Officer, Col. Paul F. Evangelista ‘96, in commenting on attempts to measure the effectiveness of DEI who said, “We don’t have the data.”[x]  West Point’s Chief Data Officer answered the DEI question candidly, “We don’t have the data.”
  • BG (Ret) Ernie Audino, US Army nails the issue precisely in his article saying[xi], “Because, if Prelogar and those generals are right, i.e. that racial diversity in our officer corps is a “national security imperative,” then the services would at least track racial percentages in their mandatory assessments of unit combat readiness, but they don’t.  Racial diversity is not included, and never has been.” 
  • CDR (Ret) Phil Keuhlen, USN, is a former Commanding Officer of a nuclear-powered attack submarine.  He conducted detailed analysis of the TF1N project, and its two sources cited to prove better performance due to diversity.  His conclusion…neither source used by TF1N passes muster. His detailed analysis can be found at this link.[xii] 
  • COL (Ret) Bing West, USMC is one of the most decorated combat veterans in our nation’s history.  COL West also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under President Reagan. Bing’s article, “The Military’s Perilous Experiment” ought to give our military’s leaders pause in their headlong pursuit of diversity.  He writes, “Inside the military, however, another criterion has taken central booking: diversity. The focus has shifted toward emphasizing gender and racial equality, particularly in leadership positions. Diversity has replaced lethality as the lodestone for the military. “It’s all about war-fighting readiness,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Admiral John Nowell Jr. said. “We know that diverse teams that are led inclusively will perform better.”  On one level, that sentence is a tautology; every individual is unique and therefore every team is diverse. On another level, the admiral is speaking in code. He is implying that the services have been under-performing because they have not properly rewarded diversity.  As a Marine veteran, I find this disconcerting. From boot training on, Marines are taught to put aside diversity, not to emphasize it.”  The entire article can be found at this link.

If the Navy was truly interested in the merits of diversity, there is ample study on the subject by eminent scholars, many of them black.  The lack of intellectual curiosity on the topic of diversity by Navy leadership is astounding and an apparent manifestation of the politicization of senior officer corps to the detriment of our core mission of preparing to fight and win our nation’s wars.

A bibliography of book reviews for recommended reading for Navy leaders who really want to learn about diversity follows this article.

CAPT Brent Ramsey, (USN, ret.) is a writer on Defense matters. He has been featured in Washington Examiner, Real Clear Defense, Armed Forces Press, CD Media, American Thinker, and Patriot Post. He is a leader with the Calvert Group, a Board of Advisors member for the Center for Military Readiness and STARRS and is a contributor to Armed Forces Press.


[i] Task Force One Navy Final Report, https://media.defense.gov/2021/Jan/26/2002570959/-1-/-1/1/TASL%FORCE%20PONE%20FINAL%20REPORT.PDF

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Christopher Rufo, Ibram X. Kendi is the False Prophet of a Dangerous and Lucrative Faith, New York Post, July 23, 2021.

[iv] Houston Keene, Navy’s Extremism Training Says it is OK to advocate for BLM at work but not ‘politically partisan’ issues, Fox News, March 29,2021.

[v] DOD Military Demographics Report 2021, https://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Reports/2021-demographics-report.pdf.

[vi] National Center for Education Statistics, Table 322.20 and Postsecondary Degree Fields Report, accessed September 23, 2023.

[vii] Task Force One Navy Final Report.

[viii] Email from senior DOD official indicates 2% of DOD workforce have concerns about racism.

[ix] Michael Lee, Pentagon Report Finds about 100 Troops involved in Extremist Activity, Fox News, December 20, 2021.

[x] Col (Ret) William F. Prince, When a Diversity Conference Could Benefit from an Increase in Diversity, www.STARRS.us, September 19, 2023.

[xi] BG (Ret) Ernie Audino, ‘Diversity’ is Not a National Security Imperative, www.STARRS.us, September 22, 2023.

This article was originally published by RealClearDefense and made available via RealClearWire.
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