The below comes from the DEC09 Proceedings by Senior Chief Jim Murphy, U.S. Navy (Retired).

With permission, copied in full.


Recent decisions by the U.S. Naval Academy have shown that we are off course when it comes to diversity.

In June 2009, Professor Bruce Fleming shed light on the Academy’s diversity application process. Fleming is (or at least was) a longtime member of the Academy’s admissions board. His description of a “two-track” admissions system-one for whites and one for non-whites-is now well documented and closely followed. Two posts on the Naval Institute blog garnered a combined 201 reader comments, far higher than most topics.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead and Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler were quoted as saying “diversity is [the] number one priority” at the Academy. The number one priority should be nothing short of academic excellence and focused leadership to prepare young Americans to lead Sailors in combat. Considering the (unwritten) two-track admissions policy and the attention paid to recent diversity statistics, it appears the Navy has lost sight of the Academy’s purpose and the true role of diversity.

The Naval Academy made news again recently for replacing two white members of the Color Guard at game two of the World Series with minority midshipmen. That evolution didn’t turn out quite like expected, as one of the minority students-who had not initially earned a spot on the detail-was unable to participate because of a forgotten uniform item. Apparently Academy leadership wanted the honor guard to represent the diversity of the institution. What really took place was discrimination against the non-minority members who had previously earned the right to participate.

Military leaders are keen to state that diversity is good, but they seem averse to explaining why. Take for instance the Chief of Naval Operations Diversity Policy. The first sentence states “[d]iversity has made our Nation and Navy stronger.” Sounds great, right? And who would dare say the contrary? But such a strong statement deserves explanation. The Diversity Policy goes on to discuss a lot about how the Navy shall treat people, but these are statements about equal opportunity, not diversity. The two subjects are closely related, but they’re not quite the same.

The opening paragraph of the Department of the Navy Diversity Policy Statement is much better, but the second paragraph includes a similarly grand statement without explanation: “. . . understanding the impact of a diverse workforce on the Department’s readiness is vital to accomplishing the mission in the 21st Century.” Combat effectiveness, courageous leadership, state-of-the-art weapons, and many other attributes are vital to accomplishing the mission, but without explanation, diversity doesn’t make the grade. Speaking of grades, is diversity really so vital that it overrides academic excellence as a prerequisite to enter the Naval Academy?

Neither of these policy documents attempts to explain the benefits of diversity. If service leadership truly wants the force to understand and appreciate the benefits of a diverse workforce, they should provide details. It appears we are all left to figure it out for ourselves or accept it in blind faith. Most of us recognize some of the benefits, but only from our personal perspective, a perspective generally far short of a service-wide understanding.

To be certain, there are advantages to having a diverse military in a country as diverse as ours. There is also a place for diversity in admissions decisions at the Naval Academy, but only when it does not come at the expense of more qualified applicants. Diversity as a tiebreaker between two fully and equally qualified applicants might be justifiable if the minority applicant also happens to have unique cultural knowledge and language skills that provide a measurable benefit to our globally engaged force. As described by Professor Fleming, the current process provides no such measurable benefit.

Judging people by the color of their skin instead of the content of their character is wrong, whether it is used to their disadvantage or benefit. Our diversity policy should be to attract the best, whomever and wherever they may be, and to guarantee fair treatment for all, and preferential treatment for none. Until our policies reflect a commitment to treat everyone fairly, the goal envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr. will go unfulfilled. Our leaders hold the key to setting the proper course.


Senior Chief Murphy transferred to the Fleet reserve on 31 December 2008 after 21 years of active service. He served his entire career in the cryptologic community and was a qualified submariner.




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  • http://chrisdudas.blogspot.com Dudes99

    CDR, concur. I retired as a Chief in Aug 07 and part of the check-in process for my Sailors was “I do not care what color you are, white, black, brown, yellow or plaid, if you can’t do you job you’ll be cleaning the p’way”. I’ve received a few puzzled looks over the years but that is the way I was broughtup in the Navy as well as being a son of a son of a Sailor.

  • Cap’n Bill

    I know that it is Super Good to have another insight to this very bothersome situation that should cause many gas pains throughout Navy’s Senior Leadership.

    I’ve been following these comments for some time now and have become discouaged to note that there have been only a small number of serving officers of any grade who seem willing to stick their neck out, even if provided with considerable shelter. Can it be that today’s officer corps is immune to criticism and self inspection ? Then too the small number of interested navymen and women might be due to the rather small hunk of folks that our blogs attract. It seems to me that this is “important stuff” and merits a much more widespread audience.

    Thanks, Chief!

  • JW – MCPO, USN (Ret.)

    I could not agree more with that the good Senior Chief penned. Specifically, …

    “To be certain, there are advantages to having a diverse military in a country as diverse as ours. There is also a place for diversity in admissions decisions at the Naval Academy, but only when it does not come at the expense of more qualified applicants.”

    As a retired MCPO, I’m fully aware of the benefits of a diverse workforce. If nothing more, it guarantees that those in charge will receive varying opinions/feedback in the course of their duties. One can only make an educated decision after they’ve maximized the opportunity (when and where practical) by examining all possibilities.

    That said, I feel that the Academy’s approach represents a fundamental problem that’s wreaked havoc on our society as a whole – a problem that extends beyond the grounds of the Academy to the vast corners of this great nation. Somewhere along the path after realizing that we, collectively, could be a better people (and thereby a better nation) by instituting policy and law to thwart the efforts of those that would otherwise continue to oppress, we lost our focus. Instead of adhering to the very basis of these laws – laws which clearly state that one shall not deny another based on the color of their skin – we’re instead making decisions and affording/denying opportunities in a fashion that’s in direct conflict with the concepts and actions that these very laws were enacted to defeat.

    Therefore, I would argue that we’re not a better nation because of this, but are instead weaker. We’ve become so accustomed to handing out that which is not truly earned nor deserved that it has become the exported norm, which is now a problem in and of itself. How, pray tell, does one attempt to right this ship? How, this late into the voyage, can one stand out front and say, without fear of being completely and totally disowned by the rest of society, “That’s not what was meant when this law was adopted, and therefore, we’re no longer going to do business in this fashion.”?

    As the good Senior Chief so eloquently states, diversity is needed, “…but only when it does not come at the expense of more qualified applicants.” My oldest son and daughter are both serving proudly in the Navy today. The likelihood exists that they may very well find themselves in a combat situation one day, and should they, I would expect that they’ll be led into battle by the best trained, most knowledgeable, hardest working Officer the Navy has to offer, and not simply the next available lesser-qualified applicant chosen merely to demonstrate our dedication to diversifying our force. Should the latter occur, then this Master Chief might very well lose his military bearing!

    JW

  • JW – MCPO, USN (Ret.)

    Correction. The second sentence should read, in part…

    “We’ve become so accustomed to handing out that which is not truly earned nor deserved that it has become the expected norm…”

  • JW – MCPO, USN (Ret.)

    Please bear with me as I struggle through my “senior” moment…

    In ref to the correction, make that the second sentence within the next-to-last paragraph.

    Let’s see…what was I doing?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Master Chief,

    No need to apologize. It’s the weak civilian coffee. Nobody washes it around in a hubcap the way we’re used to.

    Excellent points, as does the article by Senior Chief Murphy. Phib appropriately labels such the “diversity industry”, which hints at finding problems that don’t exist, and constantly changing definitions in order to perpetuate a need for such “services”.

    Be you a hammer, every problem is a nail. But I imagine they are going to get along smashingly with the “climate change industry”, whose scientific methodology has also come into question of late….

  • http://shockley3.wordpress.com/ Bobby-LSC

    I believe that the goal of having a diverse workforce is great and that those who use sheer numbers are using that as a crutch to bolster their arguments. The Naval Academy’s admission standards have never been truly fair. I believe Senator McCain was probably not the best qualified and still received appointment and I am sure that this was the case in many circumstances, considering it was all male at the time.
    The idea of more qualified also makes me uneasy, since we there seems to be no agreed to metrics for this determination other than SAT scores. In the absence of scores, what makes one more qualified than another? In the Navy, this problem is played out all too often in the advancing sailors. I have known plenty of First Classes, Chiefs and Senior Chiefs who were highly qualified, but were not advanced due to the rates they were in while others, who were seemingly less qualified, were advanced because their rates were open.

    I ask, can someone explain to me the true difference between someone who scores a 1050- such as I did- and someone who scores 1150-aside from the 100 points? Can someone truly say that that person is more qualified, or did they have a better testing day that day? The truth of the matter is that once minimum proficiency is met, the rest doesn’t matter.

    In reality, there exist no perfect application processes to determine the most qualified, since the term seems to be arbitrary at best. The smartest person is not always the best person for the job in any profession. There are other intangible that go into college admissions that people do not talk about such as legacy and who you know. I know that race and gender determinations make us as a society uneasy, but until you can truly make it a level playing field, then every factor should be taken into consideration.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Bobby,

    “Can someone truly say that that person is more qualified?”

    Immaterial. There needs to be SOME criteria. If a certain score disqualifies someone or makes admission highly unlikely, why should it be considered acceptable for another based entirely on racial or ethnic or gender category? Are you suggesting the way to end racism is to discriminate against people based on skin color or race/ethnicity?

  • J. Scott

    I would submit that an over-empahsis on diversity killed the soldiers at Ft Hood. The Army COS actually suggested that diversity was more important than soldier safety (or common sense).
    Treat people fairly, yes—but don’t be so blinded by the “diversity” mantra that we lose our sense of direction.

  • http://shockley3.wordpress.com/ Bobby-LSC

    I am saying that if we want to end discrimination then we need to end any practice that gives anyone an advantage over another. We are so focused on race that we fail to overlook those of the same ethnicity who receive unfair advantages. I am sure that not every white candidate who gets accepted to the Naval Academy or any other academic institution is qualified. We know that many variables go into admission decisions, but we only choose to focus on the racial ones.

    As J. Scott stated, we need to figure out a way to treat people fairly. In doing what they are doing, I do believe the academy is trying to get at fairness-even if its methodology is a bit off. They are trying to bring into balance historical imbalances and for this I applaud them.

  • Byron

    “Historical imbalances” my achin’ butt. What the Academy is SUPPOSED to do is produce new officers for the fleet. The Academy is SUPPOSED to screen for the best and brightest…not the “historical balance”. You need to keep one thing firmly in mind: Those future leaders of the forces designated to protect our nation may one day be what keeps you from living a much “degraded” existence.

    The service academies are NOT designed for social redress. There’s plenty of laws on the books and agencies to enforce them to insure equality. Leave it at the gate, period, dot, end of sentence.

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