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Addressing Racial Disparities in the Military Justice System

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Racial disparities in the military justice system have been a problem for too long. We know it and we will work hard to fix it.

Earlier this year, I had a number of discussions with members of Congress and key stakeholders regarding reforms to our military justice system. We have also heard from soldiers about unacceptable painful experiences in the military or any other justice system.

More recently, a 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office pointed out that members of color were more likely to be tried in court martial proceedings, but go back decades studies have shown this problem.

The men and women who risk their lives to defend the United States deserve better, and we are committed to change. By leveraging evidence-based best practices, we will drive meaningful and sustainable progress. And while driving change in one of the world’s largest companies is never easy, this challenge demands that we do it quickly and methodically.

A plethora of studies have identified the problem, and we believe we can build on these to target meaningful solutions. We led the rapid collection of data required to conduct a root cause analysis of racial disparities in military justice. Working closely with the secretaries of the military departments, we anticipate that this data will be ready for analysis by the end of this month.

As we generate intermediate conclusions, we will not wait to act. A dedicated team of experts will carry out an internal analysis by the end of 2021. For each area identified, the team will work with the departments to develop corrective action plans targeted on specific issues. The internal working group will provide concrete recommendations to the highest management of the ministry – both civilian and in uniform – ensuring that those most affected have a voice in this initiative, not only now but in the future. .

To hold ourselves accountable and in accordance with the intention of Congress, we have also launched an independent assessment of the root causes of racial disparities in the military justice system. As this assessment concludes in mid-2022, we will ensure that the findings and all recommendations are incorporated into our action plans.

We are committed to identifying suitable solutions to this problem with special attention and careful implementation. This will require the commitment and action of all leaders in the department and at all levels. But it is more than time. Swift action now will help us make sustained progress in the years to come. Our people deserve nothing less.

Dr Kathleen H. Hicks is Under Secretary of Defense. Previously, she served as Deputy Senior Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the Obama administration and served as Senior Vice President and Director of the International Security Program as the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter: @DepSecDef


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