Minorities underrepresented in service academy nominations

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FILE – In this April 18, 2020 file photo, cadets practice social distancing as they march to their seats to start the graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, at Air Force Academy, Colo. Minority students are significantly underrepresented when it comes to getting nominations from members of Congress to attend the nation’s military service academies, according to an analysis released Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Minority students are significantly underrepresented when it comes to getting nominations from members of Congress to attend the nation’s military service academies, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

The study by the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School included nearly 25 years of admissions nomination data from the Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy involving members of the current Congress.

Members of Congress have awarded 6% of their total nominations to Black students and 8% to Hispanic students, according to the report. White students received 74% of the nominations. Currently, about 15% of students in public schools nationwide are Black and 27% are Hispanic.

To be considered for admission, all service academy applicants must receive a nomination from a member of Congress, the president, the vice president, a secretary of a military service, or an academy superintendent.

“Because many general officers graduate from the service academies, the congressional nominations bottleneck ultimately impacts diversity at the highest levels of military leadership,” said Liam Brennan, the executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. “While some congressmembers are making good-faith efforts to promote students of color, the data point to a clear and urgent need for improvement across Congress and in the academy admissions process at large.”

The study found that between 2009 and 2019, people of color made up 32% of nominations made by Democrats in Congress and 15% of those made by Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the disparity in nominations is why Congress has been working to standardize and streamline the application process.

Recently enacted legislation requires the military to standardize race and ethnicity classifications and demographic categories across all service academies and to publish an annual report regarding the demographics of applicants and nominations made by each congressional district for the most recent application year.

It also sets up an online portal to serve as a clearinghouse for members of Congress so they can see who is being recommended by whom for each academy.

“Right now, very bluntly, we do not ask about an applicant’s race, ethnicity or religion,” Blumenthal said. “We feel it would be inappropriate and maybe even illegal to do so. But the standardization of information and providing an online portal will help to make the process more uniform across the country.”

An earlier analysis by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center found men were being nominated three times as often as women for admission to the academies.

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