USAF chief looks to combat extremism in the ranks

To create a better environment for all service members, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the Air Force's chief of staff said leadership will have to lay out "what our expectations are for those who are to be a part of our force."

Maxwell AFB; Ala. - Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown; Jr.; speaks with senior leadership and Air University faculty on his vision for AU; Aug. 26; 2020. (US Air Force photograph by Melanie Rodgers Cox/Released)
 

To combat extremism in its ranks, the Air Force, and Defense Department more broadly, will have to do more than have frank conversations about race and sexual assault. It will need a cultural reset with an eye towards talent management, according to the USAF's chief of staff.

"I want to create an environment where all of our airmen can reach their full potential and extremism is not one of those that allows that to happen whether it be sexual assault, discrimination -- there's so many factors that can actually detract from our airmen, our service members reaching their full potential. And extremism is one of those," Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the Air Force's chief of staff, said during a Jan. 25 Washington Post Live event.

Brown said he was "shocked" and "hurt" watching the insurrection at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, noting that while displays of the Confederate flag have been an unsettling, but not rare, sight throughout his military service, "to see it up on the Capitol and to be walked through the Capitol gives me an indication that where we are as a nation -- there is a bit of a division."

"It gives you a sense of how some people really feel," he said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff released a memo Jan. 12 condemning the violent insurrection on Jan. 6, saying "any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law."

But to create a better environment for all service members, Brown said leadership will have to lay out "what our expectations are for those who are to be a part of our force."

That includes being open and transparent with hard conversations, like those around race, but also changing talent management practices, such as breaking up officer promotional boards to include developmental categories and deliberately increasing diversity on promotional boards and candidate pools.

"You need to have a big foundation coming in at the entry level and then you've got to sustain that over time to ensure that you have individuals of diverse backgrounds available as you get to the senior ranks," Brown said.

Mentoring, coaching or additional training are also important, he said, because some candidates may not feel qualified and abstain from applying for promotions. "We've got to actually nudge and pull and actually purposefully manage to make sure we have diverse candidates that can compete."

There's also the issue of why people stay or leave military service and the conditions that create it. An Air Force inspector general report released in December found consistent, widespread disparities in how Black airmen were treated, disciplined, promoted, and viewed their chain of command compared to their white counterparts.

For example, young black airmen were twice as likely to be involuntarily discharged for misconduct compared to whites, according to the report. Black service members were also 72% more likely than white service members to receive a commanding officer's non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The review also found that Black service members were 57% more likely to face a courts martial.

On the talent management front, the report found that while many Black service members were nominated for professional military education, they were rarely invited to attend. Moreover, Black service members were underrepresented as non-commissioned and commissioned officers. For full-time civilian personnel, the report found that Black workers are underrepresented in GS-13 through Senior Executive Service (SES) grades.

Brown said, mentioning the study, that while race and diversity conversations have opened up in the last year, he wants to "ensure that we do something that is meaningful, that's sustainable, and that endures well after me...something that becomes part of the culture of the Air Force going forward."

In that same vein, Brown initiated a review of emblems, patches, nicknames, and insignia in the Air Force to make sure they are inclusive and help determine what needs to be changed.

"There's things that we've had put in place where there's a patch, a coin, a motto that may have been okay or accepted in the past. But over time as you start to open the aperture and start talking about disparity and being more inclusive, you can alienate different parts of the Air Force if we're not conscious of it," Brown said.

Brown's comments come after similar ones made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his confirmation hearing Jan. 19 and as dozens of National Guard members tapped to protect the Capitol and other federal property during the inauguration were dismissed amid concerns of ties to extremist beliefs.

Austin, a retired Army general and the first Black defense secretary, committed to "stamping out" racism and sexual assault in the military.

"We also owe our people a working environment free of discrimination, hate and harassment. If confirmed, I will fight hard to stamp out sexual assault to rid our ranks of racists and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with pride and with dignity," Austin said.

"The Defense Department's job is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can't do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks," he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.