GOP Lawmakers Say Marine Corps’ Diversity-Focused Officer Program May Discriminate Based on Race, Gender

by Micaela Burrow


Two Republican lawmakers are questioning whether a Marine Corps program created to attract minorities to apply as officers may discriminate based on applicants’ race or gender, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The “Diversity Aimed Officer Program” (DAOP) takes enlisted Marines and exposes them to senior leaders and the officer training environment near Washington, D.C., with hopes the exposure will convince them to seek careers as officers, according to the program page. But, Republican Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Mark Alford of Missouri allege the program appears structured to prioritize female and non-white applicants, contradicting the service’s legal obligation to a merit-based recruiting and promotion process, according to a letter addressed to Dr. Michael Strobl, the Marine Corps human resources chief, dated Oct 2.

“It remains unclear to us how the Marine Corps or any of our services could develop a strategy to increase the number of promotions given to certain races and or sexes without factoring race or sex into their selection processes,” the letter states.

The DAOP was set up in 2021 provide Marines from so-called underrepresented groups with “an opportunity to visualize and pursue an officer career path, infusing the officer corps with different life perspectives and enhancing the Marine Corps’ warfighting advantage,” according to the website.

“The goal is to screen and select Marines from historically underrepresented populations,” the program FAQ states. However, all Marine Corps reservists and Marines assigned to U.S. Southern Command will be considered for selection, according to the page.

The lawmakers gave the Marine Corps a deadline of Oct. 15 to provide information on how many applicants came from underrepresented groups and how many the program accepted. They also asked for the criteria used to evaluate each applicant.

In written testimony to Congress for a Sept. 20 hearing on merit in military accessions and promotions, Strobl said the Marine Corps “takes pride in its commitment to recognizing and rewarding excellence among its ranks in a fair, transparent, and methodical way.”

“The flier’s language strongly suggests that the race and gender of applicants are important factors in the DAOP evaluation process, which would contradict the spirit of your testimony,” the letter stated.

Marines selected for the latest run of the program visited the D.C. region from Aug. 15 to Aug. 19, according to the site. They participated in mentorship sessions and classroom and training experiences at the Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia, and other locations.

Federal funding covered their travel to Washington, D.C., and they received temporary additional duty pay for the experience, according to the FAQ page.

“When you look at the officer ranks, the younger officer ranks, we’re doing very well. What happens is that diversity is not sustained for the 20 year career,” Maj. Craig Thomas, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Forces Reserve, told the DCNF. They see the disparity as a sign that certain obstacles exist for minority groups in reaching the higher ranks.

Marine Corps Forces Reserve stood up DAOP to give enlisted Marines, who are already invested, a reason to pursue the officer route in hopes they’ll reach stay long enough to reach the senior ranks, Thomas explained.

“When we go out, we do stress that we are looking for underrepresented populations,” he said.

“We’re pulling people from across the heartland,” he said, but the initiative is “geared toward finding high-qualified, high-powered females and people of color.”

In general, the Marine Corps does well on the Pentagon’s diversity scorecard, Thomas said.

The Department of Defense 2021 demographics report, the latest for which data is available, found the active duty officer corps is just 9.1 percent female, but that parallels ratios of the enlisted component. The reserve component has an even smaller proportion of female members, as about 8.5 percent of officers are female.

Overall, the Marine Corps appears to have more parity between the officer and enlisted groups when compared to each of the remaining services, the data shows. The Marine Corps active duty enlisted component is about 79.9 percent white, while white people make up 78.3 percent of the officer corps. The reserves were also 79.7 percent white among enlisted and 78.6 percent white among officers.

The Marine Corps has the lowest percentage of racial minority members, according to the report, but because DAOP draws from the pool of currently serving Marines, it likely would not materially affect that statistic.

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Micaela Burrow is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Basic Training” by U.S. Marine Corps.



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