We are spending millions of dollars chasing numbers for the sake of numbers. What if we – the Naval service – knew that the ability to change the racial and ethnic numbers coming in to aviation was totally outside our control? What if we also knew that the data being entered was full of errors, inaccurate, and not related to the larger desired outcome?

What if we knew that – but – decided that we were not only going to continue to try to control the uncontrollable, but to try to create accurate metrics from inaccurate data?

Well – that is what we are doing – and we’re even saying it.

The Naval Audit Service put out a report in OCT of 2011 titled, “Naval Pilot and Naval Flight Officer Diversity” that was released in a redacted version via a FOIA. You can get your own copy of it here. There is a lot of good in the report, and it deserves a full read.

The problem as some see it is outlined early.

The Naval Pilot/Flight Officer communities, a significant portion of the Navy’s commissioned officers, are not on track to reflect the diversity of the nation. In his 2011Diversity Policy, The Chief of Naval Operations states that we “must…build a Navy that always reflects our Country’s make up.” Low enrollment, high attrition, low preference,and low selection at commissioning sources for certain minority groups, and low performance in flight training, are contributing to the lack of diversity.

If this trend continues, future senior leadership in the aviation community will not reflect the diversity of the nation.

That identifies the “what” and “so what.” Is the solution inside the lifelines of the Navy to correct? As real barriers were removed well over half a century ago – then, “what next?”

The reasons for the delta are now socio-cultural in the nation at large. Just one of the core entering arguments:

We know it is beyond our control too.

A review of the “reasons why” certain groups enroll at low rates, or have higher attrition, may identify issues beyond or outside Navy control.

This is good. This is a modern, mature, and logic based approach to a tough problem; sadly we don’t flesh it out much in the report – but it is a start.

Objective standards are fair, but do not guarantee equal outcomes when, on average, the indicators for success differ at the start.

Student Naval Pilots/Flight Officers’ performance is measured using a Navy standard score. To be eligible for the jet training pipeline, a student Naval Pilot must receive a score of 50 or above. We reviewed the flight training performance standards and found that they appeared objective.

However, we determined that African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic students’ average Navy standard scores were lower than Caucasians. These lower scores negatively affected the number from each minority group entering the jet pipeline.

Is that the Navy’s fault? No – that simply reflects the educational and socio-cultural challenges the broader nation has.

In the past, the Navy has got itself in trouble by pushing good people with good intentions to start to do bad things. This is where the bad comes in.

Establish metrics to monitor and track progress of enrollment, graduation, preference, selection, and performance …

We all know what metrics mean. From measures of effectiveness to “goal achievement.” If you cannot move the needle due to factors outside your control and only have objective criteria based on indicators for success under your control … what can you do to move the needle that the metrics demand? The answer isn’t good for anyone.

Even if we could chase numbers – are the numbers accurate?

It should be noted that race and ethnicity was self-reported by the students, and they could self-report as a different race or ethnicity when asked at different times.

Well, there we go. It is good to see in print what we have all seen in the Fleet. Fraud, folly, or foolishness; it is there when it comes to checking the block, and it increases the margin of error for all these numbers.

To our credit, the Navy has not lost faith in its objectivity, but knows there is pressure to move away from that objectivity. More than most warfare specialties perhaps, aviation is exceptionally sensitive to standards due to the minimal margin for error in that line of work. You can feel that undercurrent in this report – the professionals trying to push past the retrograde zeitgeist.

We concluded that the Multi-Service Pilot Training System, used by Chief of Naval Air Training to measure student performance, appeared objective. To account for potential differences in scoring across training squadrons, student scores are normalized over the last 60 students that graduated from the same squadron to create the Navy standard score.According to Chief of Naval Air Training officials, the Multi-Service Pilot Training System is a legally defensible and objective system.

Towards the end, the authors touch on a survey that was a lost opportunity. What would have been the results if “non-diverse” and male students were asked the same questions about themselves? Just to compare results, it would be interesting.

We also reviewed the “Naval Aviation Student Training Attrition Report,” a summary of exit surveys administered to student Naval Pilot/Flight Officers after they resign from or complete major phases in flight training. When asked whether diverse students were discriminated against, 0.08 percent (4 of 4,996) of respondents indicated that this occurred, and 0.39 percent (3 of 766) of diverse respondents indicated that this occurred. When asked whether female students were discriminated against, 0.46 percent (23 of 4,996) of respondents indicated that this occurred, and 2.67 percent (12 of 450) of female respondents indicated that this occurred.

In any event – those are incredibly small numbers and considering the human condition – numbers to be proud of. You will never find 100% of people who think they are being treated fairly – but 99.92% to 97.32% ? Even by Soviet election standards — that is exceptional.

This whole exercise is sad in another, broader sense. This is the second decade of the 21st Century. Many of those entering flight training are 22-23 years old. They were born in 1990-91. So much of the training, ideology and talking points about diversity seem stuck in the 1970s. It simply is not reflective of today’s generation of young people; why are we forcing division down their throats?

Unlike those of earlier generations who are making these decisions, today’s young men and women live diversity every day. It is a natural part of their lives, and to force such a multi-racial and mixed-race generation to divide themselves by something as meaningless yet divisive as race (my family can pick a minimum of three if they want) is, at best, counter productive.

At worse? Review history – your answers are there.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy
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  • BellCurve

    “Student Naval Pilots/Flight Officers’ performance is measured using a Navy standard score. To be eligible for the jet training pipeline, a student Naval Pilot must receive a score of 50 or above. We reviewed the flight training performance standards and found that they appeared objective.

    “However, we determined that African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic students’ average Navy standard scores were lower than Caucasians. These lower scores negatively affected the number from each minority group entering the jet pipeline.”

    Everything in this quote was known by NAMI N42 (Experimental Psychology) in 1991. NAMI collected five years of pilot flight training performance through the primary phase and examined the effects of forced attrition criteria such as attrition through the number of downs (unsatisfactory events, in-phase NSS score cutoffs, etc.). The final criteria that were chosen were picked because it had the least lopsided effect on minority groups while maintaining a single objective standard for all naval aviators.

    After all, all Navy wings are made of one color: Gold.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Where is the proof that diversity contributes to combat effectiveness?

    – Kyon

  • SWO735

    The goal of all “diversity programs” is to be representative of the general population. It would appear that the powers that be have forgotten this simple goal.

  • LowNSS

    Wow, what a colossal waste of time and resources to generate that report. As someone who has spent a long time in the training command I can tell you that while there are relatively few “diverse” students coming in the front door, there is also quite a bit of anecdotal evidence of female and minority students being given extra chances or being put back into training after failure at a relatively higher rate in order to meet those “diversity goals.” The syllabus and the instructors are about as objective as is humanly possible, but when someone up the chain makes “goals” the next person down the chain is probably going to try to meet them. The instructors are happy to train whoever is put in front of them, but the standards are the standards. Find or attract more qualified “diverse” applicants? Fine. Send us the absolute best applicants you can find, we don’t care what they look like. We just want the best product possible leaving with wings on their chest.

  • If we want the Navy as an organization to be representative of the population as a whole, we won’t get there by micro-managing every identifiable subgroup to fit that distribution. Based on the pull quotes, it seems like this study has made that attempt, but look at the structure of the Navy. For example, if the group measured was (Officers -> Aviators -> Jet Aviators -> F-18 Pilots -> F-18 Department Heads -> F-18 West Coast Department Heads -> Deployed F-18 West Coast Department Heads -> Deployed F-18 West Coast Department Heads on George Washington), eventually the group gets too small to be able to fit the fine distinctions measurable in the overall population. Unfortunately, every single one of those groupings has an officer responsible being measured against his peers. With this nonsense as a measurement, we will see the lower level groups driven to distraction by the higher level staffs because they “don’t fit the mold.”

  • Stevekaw

    Perhaps the constant drumbeat of hostility toward any diversity efforts in “Your Navy” reflected in many of these USNI blogs helps explain the relative unattractiveness to persons of color of pursuing careers in the Service reflected in the above numbers. It should be no surprise that people tend to have an aversion to joining organizations where they are not wanted or appreciated.

    An officer corps largely composed of economically-advantaged Caucasian males who have attended private primary/secondary schools and received commissions from overwhelmingly Caucasian undergraduate/graduate institutions cannot truly be said to “live diversity every day”. I would like to think that one of the primary reasons to seek diversity in our leadership is so they can better understand and motivate the enlisted & more junior commissioned personnel that they are expected to lead, and to build the mutual trust on which their lives depend.

    One may decry overemphasis on metrics in any human endeavor (I know I often do in my corporate life). But the truth of the matter is that if you can’t measure it, you can’t change or control it.

    By all means let us strive always for excellence and high standards among all Naval personnel! But just because there is struggle, or even failure, among some minority Naval officers in the quest to meet those stringent requirements should not invalidate the necessity of having a Navy which more broadly reflects our national population and the larger culture.

    A homogenous military which too long bears the burden of sacrifice isolated from the life of the society it is sworn to protect & defend is a recipe for the eventual downfall of civilian control of the military and even of democracy itself…

  • Concerned

    SteveKaw, while you rail against the economically-advantaged, “diversity” does not take that into account. A young white man from humble roots is not diverse, while an Ivy League African-American would be. When a man is judged by the color of his skin rather than the content of his character, we do him and his fellows a disservice.

  • Barrett Tillman

    Aviation is a meritocracy–flying skill and astute judgment cannot be produced on demand to fit a social/political agenda.

    Combat is perhaps the ultimate meritocracy, though subject to unforeseeable and sometimes unavoidable whims. In any case, we should acknowledge that fact.

    I remember CMC (probably Gen. Jones) who said “The one thing that keeps me awake at night is finding enough minority female officers.” Other marines wondered why he didn’t worry about KEEPING enough junior officers of any variety. Furthermore a blog on this site used WWII Navy ace Gene Valencia as “proof” that “diversity it essential.” In fact, Gene’s birth father was named Powell; his mother remarried and Gene took the latter name.

    Sometimes a little knowledge goes a long way.

    Meanwhile, the military/political leadership needs to return to school and study Clausewitz 101: define the mission. What is the primary mission of a military organization? If it’s to win in combat, let’s say so. If it’s something else, let’s admit that. One thing’s certain: our enemies won’t care because their sole agenda is Winning.

    In summary, concur with Bellcurve: Navy wings come in one color–gold. Naval aviation should retain the Gold Standard.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Not have the right abilities to fly, and try? Likely die…young.

    You bet your life. And your crew’s, and others.

    This stuff is all hardball all the time. The one’s pushing flying by the race mongers quota numbers don’t fly, for the most part they are pretty light on going to sea.

    There are some lines of work you have to have ability to survive to retire and dandle babies.

    Skin color isn’t an ability.

  • Byron

    Thumbs up to Barrett Tillman and Grandpa!