The Air Force’s top civilian and military leadership has ordered the service’s inspector general to examine how discipline is applied, and developmental opportunities are provided to African American personnel.
Gen. David Goldfein, the outgoing chief of staff, raised the issue in a June 1 letter to his leadership team, amid nationwide protests of the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police – the nearly nine minute video of which has galvanized a conversation over police accountability and race. “We are not immune to the spectrum of racial prejudice, systemic discrimination and unconscious bias,” Goldfein noted.
The Air Force IG plans to conduct interviews and group discussions, as well as issue both targeted and anonymous surveys of Air Force and Space Force members. Additionally, a senior advisory group consisting of African American general officers, chiefs and top-level civilians will provide the IG with their observations and input.
“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,” said Lt. Gen. Sami Said, the Air Force IG. “Their voices will be heard and captured for the record. We have a tremendous opportunity here, and we will not waste it.”
The Air Force’s senior non-commissioned officer had earlier this month taken to social media to decry deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, sometimes coming to light only due to civilian cellphone videos of the events. “Just like most of the black airmen and so many others in our ranks, I am outraged at watching another black man die on television before our very eyes,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said in the post. “I hope you realize that racism/discrimination/exclusion does not care much about position, titles or stature. It could happen to you, or one of your friends, or airmen, or your NCOIC, your flight chief, your squadron commander or even your wing commander.”
Wright went on to say he struggles with “racial disparities in military justice and discipline” and the “clear lack of diversity in our senior officer ranks.” Wright said it is up to him and others in Air Force leadership positions to ensure that every airman has a “fair chance at becoming the best version of themselves.”
The anonymous AF surveys should be available sometime in the middle of this month, at www.af.mil.