The services need to do a better job of collecting and assessing information regarding the roles race and ethnicity play during investigations, military justice actions and personnel databases, according to the government’s chief watchdog agency.
In a June 16 report, the Government Accountability Office reported that black members of three armed services – the Army, Navy and Marine Corps – were roughly twice as likely to face trial by general and special courts-martial than their white counterparts. The GAO report acknowledged that its findings are based on information available from the services, which may fall short of providing a thorough picture of the potential disparity.
The agency had stated that the services “did not collect consistent information about race and ethnicity,” in a May 2019 report. “The military services were not required to, and thus did not, report demographic information that would provide greater visibility into potential disparities in their annual military justice reports.”
As such, the finding issued in the new report show a connection between race and military-justice actions, but are otherwise inconclusive.
“GAO’s findings of racial disparities, taken alone, do not establish whether unlawful discrimination has occurred,” the report stated. “That is a legal determination that would involve other corroborating and supporting statistics.”
GAO recommended that the services “develop the capability to present consistent race and ethnicity data,” which would “include demographic information in military justice annual reports and evaluate the causes of disparities.”