86% of Air Force pilots are white men. Here’s why this needs to change.

By Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Commander of Air Force Recruiting Service.

October 21, 2020

The tragic death of George Floyd and recent events have fueled widespread protests and a renewed call for racial equality nationwide.

The Air Force, as a war-fighting organization, cannot afford to squander this moment, because our future — and national security — depends on it.

Before I even took command of my service’s recruiting efforts this spring, Air Force leadership made it clear to me that improving diversity would be on the top of my to-do list.

Gen. David Goldfein, our former chief of staff, called diversity “a war-fighting imperative.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the first African-American to lead any branch of the military, has called on us to accelerate change or risk losing ground to Russia and China, both of which are integrating potential game-changing technologies like artificial intelligence and hypersonic flight.

We simply can no longer afford for significant segments of our society to be underrepresented in our U.S. Air Force or our newest branch, the U.S. Space Force.

The Air and Space Forces will focus intensely and concentrate our efforts in traditionally underserved communities. If we see that we’re not hitting recruiting targets that mirror the qualified population in various demographic groups, we will adjust to concentrate on areas where we can get a more representative balance in our applicant pool.

Inside our cockpits is where we have the greatest disparities and opportunities for improvement.

86 percent of our aviators are white males. Less than 3 percent of our fighter pilots are females.

We established a detachment within Air Force recruiting charged with improving diversity. The mission of Detachment 1 is to bring a singular focus to recruiting qualified women and minorities.

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