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'A problem for far too long' | DOD addresses military justice racial disparities

A GAO report found minority troops face harsher judicial punishments than their white peers.

WASHINGTON — Correcting some old wrongs, the Pentagon has begun addressing long-standing racial disparities that have plagued the military justice system.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that minority service members receive far harsher punishments than their white colleagues.

 According to a June 2020 GAO report, in all the military services, Black and Hispanic troops were more likely than white troops to be tried in a court-martial proceeding.

The report said Black service members were about twice as likely as white service members to be tried in general and special courts-martial.

Members of Congress demanded action.

"Our service members commit their lives to protect our country. We must commit ourselves to ensure that the military treats service members of color equally and justly," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California).

In May of this year, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks directed the creation of an internal review team to look into the root causes of the problem.

In a memo to Pentagon leadership, Hicks wrote:  "Racial disparities in the investigative and military justice systems have been a problem for far too long, and it is incumbent on the Department to take immediate action to correct these issues wherever they exist."

This week, the Pentagon announced that members of that team have embarked on conducting a series of listening sessions and visits to military installations.

The team began its work on June 1 and will deliver its findings to Hicks by August 24.

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