Air Force review finds Black and white service members treated differently

Black Air Force members face different treatment than white service members in criminal investigations, military justice, promotions, and educational and leadership opportunities, the service’s independent watchdog found.

The Air Force Inspector General’s (IG) Office “confirmed racial disparity exists for Black service members” from what leaders called an “unprecedented” and “overwhelming” response from airmen, included in a 150-page report released Monday.

More than 123,000 service members responded to a survey on the topic, while 138 in-person sessions at bases across the country yielded a combined 27,000 pages of comments.


“The pent-up anger on the topic, the volume was surprising,” Air Force IG Lt. Gen. Sami Said told reporters on Monday. “When we asked for feedback, I expected to get feedback. But we were just drowned with feedback. The airmen were very eager to tell the story — their story. They wanted their voices heard.”

The result is the Independent Racial Disparity Review, which lays out the data for how Black airmen are more likely to face punishment compared with their white counterparts and less likely to trust that the system will treat them fairly.

For example, the report found that enlisted Black service members were 72 percent more likely than enlisted white service members to receive Uniform Code of Military Justice, commanding officer’s non-judicial punishment, and 57 percent more likely to face courts-martial.

But the report does not address why racial disparity exists in these areas, instead recommending that leaders come up with a plan for righting the imbalance and plan additional reviews.

The Air Force in June ordered the review to address racial, ethnic and other disparities and their impact on the forces following the death of George Floyd while in police custody this spring, which sparked civil unrest and nationwide protests.

Pentagon leaders weathered criticism from former military leaders, lawmakers and others for their role in President TrumpDonald TrumpMcConnell: Senate to return Dec. 29 for potential Trump veto override vote Congress passes .3T coronavirus relief, government funding deal No. 2 GOP senator: Efforts to overturn election would ‘go down like a shot dog’ MORE’s efforts to crack down on the demonstrations.


Around the same time, the military justice system faced renewed scrutiny for racial disparities.

The new Air Force report did not outright say that there was systemic racism in the service, but Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown wrote on Twitter that leaders are “analyzing root causes and taking appropriate actions to address these challenges.”

“Now we must all move forward with meaningful, lasting, and sustainable change,” said Brown, who became the U.S. military’s first Black service chief in August.