And does it without ever using the word…

From the Jackson MS Clarion-Ledger:

Poor education is a major threat to national security, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday.

Three out of four young people between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States cannot qualify to join the military,” Mabus told a meeting of The Clarion-Ledger editorial board. “You can’t join the military today without a high school diploma, yet one-third of the people in our country don’t finish high school. Others can’t join because of obesity or having a criminal record. We can’t remain a great country as long as that is the case. We’re on a very dangerous path if we keep going down that way.”

While CNO and CJCS sincerely talk diversity, and tend to mean “look like”, Secretary Mabus is hitting on the impediment to realizing a vision of a qualified military that “looks like” the country: most of those who enlistment and commissioning age are inelegible for one reason or another.

It’s easy, and dishonest, statistics to press for a Navy that looks the same as the Nation, while at the same time ignoring the realities of the whole population demographic.

Today’s racial demographics are

The looked at statistics for the 2030 demographic of ethnic and racial makeup in the United States are

The most challenging area of meeting the goal of looks is within the officer corps – which has a higher standard for entry. The most immutable one is a college degree. Which brings two other relevant statistics to look at…today’s officer corps, and the number of degrees conferred annualy. 

 Number of degrees conferred 2007-2008:
White 71.8%
Black 9.8%
Hispanic 7.9%
Asian/PI 7.0%
American Indian/Native Alaskan .7%
Nonresident alien 2.8%


Navy Officer Corps FY 2008:

White 85.2%
Black 8.3%
Hispanic 5.9%
Asian 4.7%

Which places the officer corps overall at a 1% “deficit” for Blacks and a 2% “deficit” for Hispanics.

And, in order to be able to make up that deficit, there are two options – access Blacks and Hispanics with lower grade point averages than their white peers, and immediately place them at a disadvantage, or get colleges to more provide eligible graduates who meet the criteria for a commission. For Blacks, that comes out to 3,436 more college graduates (in order to make the 864 likley to be eligible, much less have the propensity to join). For Hispanics it would mean 4,320 more graduates. Out of 152,000 and 123,000 respectively – or a 2% increase in the overall number of black college graduates, and a 3.5% increase in Hispanic graduates.

I’ve not done the numbers of students by race who start, but never complete college…but you get the picture. Education is just one facet. Obesity. Mental and psychological problems. Drug use. All of those issues lead to a smaller population that is even capable of joining the force. And until those issues are addressed, we cannot, and will not – no matter how hard our recruiters work – have a force that looks like America.

Now, back to Secretary Mabus – he has not lobbied for or received a single award for Diversity that I can find – he never speaks about it, comments on it. Yet, in a single speech that never mentions the word once, he hits the nail on the head for what Navy needs in order to have a not just a force that looks like America – but a force that is capable of meeting the Navy’s statutory mission.

None of this is commentary on whether the optics of the force are a worthy goal or not…they are the goal that has been labled by CNO as our “number one priority”. However, in my rambling and disjointed way, I think we’d (the Navy, the government, parents, and our own selves) be far better served to work on the recommendations in this report than to seek awards and accolades.




Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Navy, Soft Power


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  • http://smadanek.blogspot.com Ken Adams

    If we really wanted the military to “look like America,” we’d have all those fat kids in uniform. They’d be serving alongside the psychos, druggies, murderers and litterbugs that we currently reject.

  • maineiac

    Collage grads are 72% white and 28% non-white.
    Navy officers are 85% white and 15% non-white

    There is a 1% “diversity defici”t that the Navy is trying hard to close and the problems is fat kid. If that’s true I don’t think this post makes the case.

  • http://blog.usni.org M. Ittleschmerz

    Look at the number of black college grads…

    9.8% to 8.3%

    If “There is a 1% “diversity defici”t that the Navy is trying hard to close and the problems is fat kid.” is the summation you took from this post, I either didn’t make my point well, or you misread it.

  • maineiac

    Thanks for the reply – One point I’m making is the way this is being framed. A second point, I not up on my statistics, but if bank A is paying 8.3% and Bank B is paying 9.8% I think bank B rates are over 10% better then bank A.

  • Old Air Force Sarge

    This post hits the nail on the head in so many ways. The country, as a whole, has and is facing problems that the military cannot solve. Kids not finishing high school, kids who graduate from high school yet who can’t read and write beyond a grade-school level and whose math skills are weak at best. Kids who never go outdoors but are glued to their PlayStations, etc, etc. Basing the composition of the officer corps on skin color, ethnic origin, religion etc is ridiculous at best, criminal at worst. Martin Luther King Jr looked forward to the day when one would be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I share that dream. Unfortunately we’ve become a nation of bean-counters. It’s the numbers that count, not the quality. SECNAV speaks the truth here. Until we can fix the underlying problems we face as a nation, balancing the metrics won’t do anything but weaken the military to the point where we can’t defend ourselves. We’re sliding rapidly towards being a second-rate country in so many aspects. We need to educate our children, get their families out of poverty, provide meaningful jobs, the list seems endless. Current trends seem to indicate that we’re going about nearly everything the WRONG WAY. Thanks for the post.

  • http://blog.usni.org M. Ittleschmerz

    Old Air Force Sarge – thanks for summing things up. I’m not with you on the “sliding rapidly towards being a second-rate country” but other than that, agreement.

  • maineiac

    M. Ittleschmerz – I don’t know, you point is well taken but still seems to me the Navy could do a lot better. “To measure is to know” but the 85% doesn’t tell us what is in peoples hearts.

    Anyway, thanks for the post, a difficult subject.

  • M. Ittleschmerz

    Can you expand on what you mean by “the Navy could do a lot better”? At what?

  • Derrick

    I don’t understand. Is this article stating that the Secretary of the Navy is prioritizing quality of officers over diversity?

    Assuming the statistics posted are accurate, it seems to me the Navy is extremely diverse.

    What is meant by the term “college degree”? Is a degree from Stanford considered a college degree or university degree?

  • http://blog.usni.org M. Ittleschmerz

    A “college degree” is a four year degree from an accredited institution. No quality cut difference between Ivy League or Podunk U so far as the stats go.

    SECNAV was only talking about not cutting education at the high school level. I made the further inference that unless education, and a bunch of other societal things, change then Navy will never make it to the CNO and CJCS dream of a Navy that looks like America.

  • Derrick

    In Canada we differentiate between College and University. University is more academic and intellectually challenging whereas College is more practical…

    In Canada, one would find it almost impossible to become an officer unless they possessed an university degree. Is the same true in the US?

    I think the higher priority is to staff the Navy with the resources it needs, not to make it “look like America”. Perhaps publishing those numbers would encourage people of diverse backgrounds to study harder?

  • DG

    In the US, “college” and “university” are generally used interchangeably. The Canadian “college” is equivalent to a US “community college”, which offer two year degrees, certificates, and rarely four year degrees in vocational areas.

    In the US, you can’t become a commissioned officer with a community college degree, with rare exceptions.

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