Read a few different perspectives on this topic:
- Looking in All the Wrong Places: One Solution to Improving Diversity In the Officer Corps
by Capt Calvert L. Worth, published in the February 2001 Marine Corps Gazette
- The Officer Candidates Class: A Myopic Approach to 12-12-5
by Capt Randall J. Kehrmeyer, published in the September 1997 Marine Corps Gazette
- The Officer Procurement Process
by Maj Jeffrey D. Volt, USMCR, published in the October 1998 Marine Corps Gazette
Today, the truest melting pot in our society exists aboard aircraft carriers, in barracks, and on bases where mess halls, exchange service stores, shooting ranges, and training facilities are portraits of diversity.1 But in the United States Marine Corps, a discouraging condition exists as the population of African-American officers has been declining since the beginning of the last decade. Gen James T. Conway, the current Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), has stated that the Marine Corps’ racial demographics should reflect that of the Nation those Marines take the oath to support and defend. Currently the Corps has a 6 percent African-American officer population while, according to Census Bureau Data that was released in 2006, African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. “Because CMC wants to ensure that Marines reflect the racial and ethnic characteristics of broader American society, he requested a survey in 2007 to examine this issue.”2 Surprisingly, the study proved a positive causal relationship between the total number of African-American officer accessions and the total number of overall African-American officers. That is to say, the Black officer population is directly linked to the number of newly commissioned second lieutenants. Therefore, Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC) must revamp its diversity recruiting standards of effectiveness in order to meet CMC’s guidance by analyzing the effectiveness of key components of the previous diversity program, understanding the failing aspects of the current diversity program, and requiring each of its six recruiting districts to meet a diversity induction mission at the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School (OCS).
The Previous Diversity Program
On 17 March 1995, Marine Corps officials released Operation Order 1–95, Campaign Plan To Increase Diversity Within the Officer Corps of the United States Marine Corps, which directed that the Marine Corps would achieve a racial composition of 12 percent Black, 12 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian/Pacific Islander/Native American (and other minorities).3 This new program, commonly referred to as 12–12–5, also directed that each officer selection officer (OSO) around the country recruit to this new standard. In the 5 years prior to the implementation of this new program, the Corps averaged 74 African-American officer accessions with the high year being fiscal year 1994 (FY94) when the Corps welcomed 92 new Black officers. Following the release of Operation Order 1–95, the Marine Corps commissioned 109 African-American officers while also attaining a total accession goal of 1,479 new second lieutenants during FY95. In the following years, the Marine Corps boasted successive increases in African-American officer accessions and reached unprecedented highs of 115 in 1996, 124 in 1997, and 131 in 1998. Table 1 displays how MCRC was also enjoying a constant rise in the African-American officer accession percentages, African-American officer totals, and African-American officer percentage. According to C. Mark Brinkley, the Marine Corps:
. . . scrapped the 4-year-old plan to increase diversity in the officer corps in favor of a new plan that should take the pressure off OSO’s to meet specific quotas for minority officer candidates.4
Brinkley further points out that the Marine Corps “struggled with officers and OSOs who viewed [12–12–5] as a quota system that would ultimately degrade the officer corps” and, as a result, MCRC would “set much lower minimums for the acceptable percentages of minorities recruited by its OSO in the field.”5
The Current Diversity Program
The current diversity plan is similar to the 12–12–5 program, but without the accession goals. It is appropriately titled the “Campaign Plan to Maintain a Quality Officer Corps.”6 By placing the word “maintain” in the title of this program, Marine Corps officials inadvertently imply that the Corps is satisfied with its current officer demographics and will place emphasis on retaining this population, not procuring more diverse Marine officers. By analyzing the Marine Corps Almanac, which is published yearly at the conclusion of each FY as a part of the Marine Corps Concepts and Programs publication, the problem is revealed that the number of Black officers has successively decreased each year since FY99, while the other three demographics (White, Hispanic, and other) has grown successively each year. (See Table 2.)
As was the case prior to the implementation of 12–12–5, the total number of Black officers in the Corps is positively related to the total number of Black officer accessions. Therefore, an analysis of MCRC’s standard of effectiveness has to be completed to understand why the Black officer population has dwindled while the other three demographics have grown during the same time period. What is more troubling is that this decrease continued during the past 4 FYs even though the Marine Corps was grown from 185,000 to 202,000 active duty Marines. As a result, OSOs within each recruiting district received dramatic increases for Officer Candidates Course (OCC) and Platoon Leader’s Class (PLC). OCC is a program in which college graduates receive a commission as second lieutenants upon graduating from OCS (there are three OCC classes per year at OCS) while the PLC program recruits current college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to spend their summer vacations at OCS. Requiring each OSO to meet a submission mission in some categories and an induction mission in other categories has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of Black candidates arriving at OCS. A submission mission means that the OSO will receive “mission credit” for a particular applicant once the OSO submits the applicant’s package to district headquarters, while an induction mission means that an applicant, after being screened by an OSO, must also report to OCS and begin the rigorous training in order for the OSO to receive mission credit. According to the Sixth Marine Corps Recruiting District’s (6MCD’s) 2008 annual mission letter, OSOs received an induction mission for both PLC and OCC programs but received a submission mission for their diversity candidates.7 Specifically, each OSO within the 6MCD received a mission to recruit three Black candidates during FY08. If one Black applicant applied for each of the three OCC classes without ever being selected to attend either class, that applicant’s OSO would be deemed a mission maker for his Black candidate mission without ever sending a Black candidate to OCS. Conversely, this same OSO will not get credit for the White candidates until they have arrived at OCS and begun the training evolution.
After each applicant has applied for selection to attend OCS, the different levels of preparation that OSOs will inadvertently display to the applicants based entirely on their race and ethnicity become clear. Once a Black, Hispanic, or other applicant has submitted an application to attend OCS, there no longer exists any added value for the OSO to ensure that applicant ever attends OCS. On the contrary, the OSOs will spend the majority of their time in preparing the White applicants for induction at OCS. Two recent examples illustrate this theory in practice. In the summer of 2007, Marjorie Jones was the only Black female in the entire country to induct into the PLC Junior Course (this course is only open to college freshmen and sophomores), while in the summer of 2009, Lakyra Pharms was the only Black female in the entire country to induct into the PLC Combined Course (this course is only open to college juniors). According to both of these young ladies, the feeling of graduating from Marine Corps OCS was overwhelming and a monumental event in their lives.
Recommended Diversity Program
MCRC has to revamp its current program if the Corps is to achieve a 12 percent African-American officer population. Using lessons learned from both programs as the starting point for developing a more successful diversity campaign, one very simple solution would be to require each recruiting district to meet a diversity induction mission at OCS for both the OCC and PLC programs. The recruiting districts could then dictate that each OSO induct at least one Black candidate per year into one of the three OCC classes, or assign the entire Black mission to certain OSOs within the district based on the demographics of that OSO’s canvassing area. This would result in at least 78 Black candidates inducting into OCC each year, and given the 40 percent attrition rate, the Corps could expect nearly 40 Black second lieutenants yearly from this program alone.
Similarly, each district should receive an African-American PLC induction mission that is commensurate with the total number of OSOs within that district. The district commander should decide if each OSO is responsible for inducting at least one African-American freshman, sophomore, and junior each summer, or allow a select group of OSOs to attain this mission. Either way, MCRC would ensure that at least 225 Black officer candidates arrive at OCS each summer for the PLC program alone.
The only way to increase the Black officer population in the Marine Corps is to increase the number of Black officer candidates that attend OCS. This will only happen if MCRC changes its standards of effectiveness in evaluating its diversity recruiting mission. For FY10, MCRC had a total accession mission of 1,800 newly commissioned second lieutenants. If the Corps mandated a 12 percent Black officer accession mission, MCRC would have been required to commission 216 Black second lieutenants before 30 September. Given the accession numbers of previous years, the likelihood of this occurring was very slim. However, if MCRC does not have any objections to allowing one Black female to induct into OCS during any given summer, there should not be any objections to swinging the pendulum in the other direction and inducting 100 Black females in any given class.
Finally, if this decline in the Black officer population is not reversed, America will soon be asking the Marine Corps a very disheartening question: are the Black officers in today’s Corps becoming extinct?
1. Meek, Kendrick, Strength in Diversity, Officer Corps must catch up to enlisted ranks for true integration, accessed at http://www.marinecortimes.com/community/opinion/marine_backtalk_diversity_071119.
2. Quester, Aline, et al., Black and Hispanic Marines: Their Accession, Representation, Success, and Retention in the Corps, Center for Naval Analyses, Alexandria, VA, 2007, p. 1.
3. Operation Order 1–95, Campaign Plan To Increase Diversity Within the Officer Corps of the United States Marine Corps, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC, 17 March 1995.
4. Brinkley, C. Mark, “Marines scrap ‘12–12–5’,” Navy Times, The Marine Corps Edition, 28 December 1998, p. 3.
6. Department of the Navy, Diversity Annual Report: The Difference Is People, 2007, Department of the Navy, Washington, DC, p. 10.
7. Sixth Marine Corps District, Annual Mission Letter for Fiscal Year 2008, Parris Island, 2008, p. 20.