A Call To Arms

African Americans under represented in Special Ops

As part of the United States’ war on terrorism, thousands of military troops–many of whom are African American–will be called upon to assist in the fight. However, surprisingly few will do so as part of the elite U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) units.

Though African Americans make up the largest minority component of the U.S. armed forces, very few blacks are in special ops. Among enlisted personnel, African Americans number approximately one out of four in the Army, one out of five in the Navy, and one out of six in the Air Force. But the highest representation of blacks in any branch of the SOF is less than one in 25.

RAND, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, was asked by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to undertake a study of minority representation in the SOF. The quantitative analysis presented here shows that minorities are under represented in the SOF when compared to the source populations from which these forces recruit. But the extent of under representation differs between officer and enlisted ranks, and among the different racial/ethnic groups. The study, however, was unable to confirm or deny whether racism was a factor.

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