News & Articles

A Matter of Life and Death: America’s Military Academies Must Return to Meritocracies

DEI Agenda

A Matter of Life and Death: America’s Military Academies Must Return to Meritocracies

By Wilson Beaver
Senior Policy Analyst for defense budgeting
The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense
Served in the US Army

The Supreme Court has finally reversed its 2003 decision that first injected racial preferences into university admissions.

However, it failed to extend the ruling to America’s military service academies, where a system based on recruiting the most capable to lead service members into battle can ultimately mean the difference between life and death.

The court’s much-anticipated decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina reexamines the constitutionality of considering race in admissions and finds it unconstitutional.

In a footnote, however, Chief Justice John Roberts stopped short of extending the ruling to the service academies like the United States Military Academy at West Point, noting the “potentially distinct interest that military academies may present” regarding race-based admissions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates this concession in her dissent.

Back in 2003, the court decided in Grutter v. Bollinger to permit higher education institutions to consider race as a factor for admissions to achieve desired levels of diversity, contrary to the clear language of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which the court has now upheld with last week’s decision.

In the age of the “woke military,” the service academies have energetically acted on the court’s ruling in Grutter. For example, analysis of West Point’s own data suggests the presence of clear diversity “goals” and highlights the double standards the academy employs to achieve them.

Those filing “friends of the court” briefs in Grutter and SFA v. UNC argued that the military academies needed to consider race in the admissions process. In so arguing, they explicitly or implicitly relied on the racial tensions in the military during the Vietnam War.

They made the claim that race-conscious admission policies in service academies and ROTC programs are a national-security imperative, essential to achieving racial diversity in the officer corps to prevent disobedience and unrest between officers and enlisted soldiers.

That belief, it is important to note, is not universally shared. Consider what Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, had to say.

As she explained in a commentary for The Federalist, the problems at that time were “largely caused by conscription, anti-Vietnam War radicalism, widespread drug abuse, racial suspicions, and Great Society failures like Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara’s ‘Project 100,000.’”

Importantly, as Donnelly points out, “Conditions of that era do not exist today. Since Vietnam, the all-volunteer force has fought several wars without race riots or combat refusals.”

Yet because of the decision in Grutter, racial bias was injected into military academy admission policy.

One study of West Point’s own data concludes the academy is “deliberately seeking and tolerating low performance and accepting high failure rates that hurt cadets to meet arbitrary student body composition goals by skin color.”

For example, the data reflects that black students are admitted at nearly twice the rate as white or Asian students, despite earning SAT scores that are lower on average.

Conversely, Asian students are subjected to a significant penalty, needing “at least ~150 [points] of additional SAT to reach comparable white admissions rates,” the analysis found.

Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Robert Fogleman and retired Army Brig. Gen. Claude McQuarrie argue that in the pursuit of “class composition goals” by service academies, “our warfighters are denied the ‘best-qualified’ officers.”

These explicit racial biases also “demean high-performing minorities” and deprive them of the “presumption of competence.”

Because racial preferences are an explicit policy goal, “[t]heir peers and subordinates don’t know whether a promotion was earned or the result of preferences.”

Former national security adviser and military historian Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster effectively summarized the arguments when he articulated how leaders must not allow “reified postmodernist theories to erode the sacred trust between warriors or diminish the meritocracy and objective realities that are essential to preserving the warrior ethos as the foundation of combat effectiveness.”

As The Heritage Foundation has documented at great length, those “postmodernist theories” are pervasive in today’s military, largely driven by political forces from the top.

Had one of the service academies been a party in SFA v. UNC, the court would have had an opportunity to begin the process of removing this corrosive influence and reinstate merit as one of our military’s fundamental tenets.

By an ironic twist, the court’s ruling last week means that race-based discrimination policies have been overruled everywhere except at the nation’s finest institutions of higher education.

The task now falls to future litigation to make a case directly against military academies like West Point and root out discrimination entirely.

The Heritage Foundation

To preserve, defend, and advocate for West Point's history, purpose, and principles of Duty, Honor, Country.

Join our mailing list to show your support of the Society's mission and get alerts on action items and occasional updates on our activities. Join List:

In the Fight Together:

Get Saturday morning news updates from STARRS.US on the far-left CRT/DEI woke agenda in the military and service academies; learn about the danger of this ideology and how it affects morale, readiness, recruitment and retention. Join List:

Select the fields to be shown. Others will be hidden. Drag and drop to rearrange the order.
  • Image
  • SKU
  • Rating
  • Price
  • Stock
  • Availability
  • Add to cart
  • Description
  • Content
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Additional information
Click outside to hide the comparison bar