A federal district court today struck down the U.S. Army’s promotional affirmative action policy because, according to the judge, the policy impermissibly preferences women and minorities. The policy requires those on the promotion board to examine the list of applicants “best qualified” for a promotion and insure that that the percentage of women and minority candidates in the “best qualified” pool is similar to the percentage of women and minorities in the pool of applicants judged to be qualified for a promotion. If females and minorities are found to be underrepresented, the board is to revaluate applications. In addition, when evaluating the applications of women and minorities, the policy instructs the board to consider that prior discrimination may have limited the opportunities of women and minority candidates.
The district court found that this policy, which does not require that a specific number of women or minority officers be promoted, created a racial and gender preference that disadvantaged white males. The district court also found that the Army failed to show that the review process was required because of prior discrimination in the Army in promotions.
As of 1997, women made up 14% of the Army. In that same year, an Army report found that “sexual harassment exists throughout the army” and that “sex discrimination is more common than sexual harassment.” A 1997 report of Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services found that the practice of male commanders denying women leadership positions and assigning them desk duty is “widespread.” At some bases, women were “openly demeaned and their roles in the military ridiculed.”
The case is Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Saunders v. Thomas E. White.