Secretary Austin, Irving Smith, Black Service discussed on PBS NewsHour
Since Donald Trump took office for the PBS news, Our Paul Psalm. Confirmation of Lloyd Austin as the first black U. S secretary of defense is a milestone. Nick Schifrin reports on how it also spotlights racial disparities at the highest level of the military ranks. Everybody. When Lloyd Austin arrived at the Pentagon today, he broke through what's been called the brass ceiling in a 40 year career. He was the first black officer to command a division in combat, the first black officer to command an entire theater of war and now the first black secretary of defense to hit every single one of those gates is incredible. S O. To me that is much like hitting the lottery. Irving Smith is a retired Army colonel and former West Point professor. He says the military provides opportunity for black enlisted troops to rise to positions like Sergeant, but to rise through the officer ranks like four star General Austin did. The barriers are systemic. He read in 1995, U. S Army War College Research Project. Why black officers Fail and 2010. He wrote a follow up. My black officers still fail. There's this thing called the good Old Boy Network. There's a system in the army that is very it's like nepotism that exists there. And as long as that persists, black officers will have a very hard time making it to the senior ranks in 1994 black soldiers were 27% of the army, but only 11% of the officers. 2007 black soldiers were 20% of the army, but only 12% of the officers today the problem persists. The Pentagon provided PBS news. Our data we analyzed for the entire military. Black service members are 16% of the military, but only 8% of its officers. White Service members are 55% of the military, but 72% of the officers Major problem. The lack of black mentor ship most of the African American officers were coming out of historically black colleges and those historically black colleges weren't providing. The mentorship up front. Where is the West Point? Cadets were getting the very best officers to teach them from day one, and so they weren't necessarily being given. The right guidance on the right assignments to take. That's a reference to the military's combat units where black Service members are 11% of the enlisted, but only 5% of the officers. White Combat Service members are 64% of the enlisted and 78% of the officers. In fact, in combat units, as the percentage of white officers rises with seniority, the percentage of black officers drops from 8% of second lieutenants down to 4% for colonels. In combat support units. Such a logistics, the disparity remains, but the numbers get better. Black service members are 20% of the enlisted and 10% of the officers, Smith says. That's indicative of black soldiers self selecting. I came into the army because I was going to do five years, get out and make a lot of money. Right if I fell in love with the army when I was in the army, and I found my calling when I was there, But my parents were like, Why did you go into the infantry? That was the dumbest thing you could do. Why didn't you go in the signal Corps where you could learn the work satellites and get a job. But you know, some big satellite company afterwards, Smith says young black soldiers who to support roles like Signal Corps limits the number of black officers who become generals. It's well known that A combat units was combat arms professions produced the senior leaders of the future. There is no justifiable reason. Or discrimination. The military is proud of its past efforts to fight racism. Thanks to a President Truman executive order. The military was one of the first American institutions to integrate black men have risen to its most senior ranks. Colin Powell, the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and just last summer, Air Force general, CQ Brown, the first black service chief. But before he was confirmed, he posted a video about the racism that he experienced. I'm thinking about the pressure. I felt them perform error free, especially for supervisors I perceived had expected less for me as an African American. We can't just lay this on a black leader to say Go fish. This the Caucasian leaders of the services, you know, have to fix this issue have to really go after Admiral Mike Mullen was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011. Today, he voiced rare criticism of his successors. Do you believe that the current leadership across the military Has taken. This is a property. Con leadership of the military has not taken a priority, and I think the evidence is just in the numbers look at the lack of senior four stars in particular. Who are black or Hispanic. Mullen hired Austin to be the joint staff director. One day, Austin told his boss come downstairs to take a photo. Never before had so many senior black officers helped lead the joint staff and I said, What's all this? And that? And one of them said This is history, and every one of them had was doing an exceptional job for me to increase the percentage of black officers. Mullen says that old boy's network has to change from the lowest ranks. I've had this theory forever on these promotion boards. There's a phrase I used, You know, ducks pick ducks on these air dominate. These boards are dominated by Caucasian senior officers typically It's hard to break that, and this is a long term issue where you have to enlarge the pool there in order to expect to be able to promote patient that people toe admiral in general, Smith says commanders should be judged by the diversity of their staff and the climates they create, and that ROTC programs must be improved. He's confident that Secretary Austin conducive that This is a great occasion not for black America before America. If the same is I cannot be what I cannot see. Today. Every young service member can see him. For the PBS use our I'm next year for And.