Males account for nearly 80 percent of current lawmakers’ service academy nominees, according to a new report examining nomination data from the past 25 years.
Findings from the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, which obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Request, determined men received 79 percent of current lawmakers’ service academy nominations while women only received 21 percent. Altogether, this means 72,506 nominations were issued to male candidates while only 19,414 nominations were issued to women from members of the 116th Congress.
“This analysis, the first of its kind, finds that members of Congress have overwhelmingly nominated young men rather than young women, thus depriving the academies of a more balanced pool of candidates,” the report states.
Most applicants must secure a nomination from members of either the Senate or the House in order to submit an application to a service academy. Spots for such nominations are limited though, because only a maximum of five people nominated by a single member of Congress may attend the service academy at one time.
Once a student graduates, or withdraws from a service academy, lawmakers can nominate up to 10 applicants as a potential replacement.
“This makes members of Congress essential gatekeepers to the admissions process,” Liam Brennan, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said in a statement. “But the dramatic gender disparity in nomination rates means that members, including many who are deeply committed to gender equality, have failed to recruit and nominate exceptional young women to the academies.”
The class of cadets preparing to jubilantly toss their caps in the air at the U.S. Military Academy’s graduation ceremony Saturday includes 34 black women, a record number that’s a sign of concerted efforts to diversify West Point’s Long Gray Line.
The report examined individual members’ track records for nominating women and found that female nominations account for 23 percent of Senate appointments from current members, and 21 percent of House appointments from current members.
Specifically, Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Martha McSally, R-Ariz., have nominated the highest proportion of women in the upper chamber of Congress. Booker has nominated a total of 88 people, 35 of which are women.
In the House, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., nominated the greatest proportion of women. Out of the 40 people he has nominated, 19 were women.
Although men were consistently nominated at higher rates than women, it’s unclear if more men were vying for nominations than women. The FOIA request did not apply to Congress, and information is not available on how many women sought to obtain an appointment from members of Congress in comparison to their male counterparts.
Retired Col. Ellen Haring, CEO of Service Women’s Action Network and West Point graduate, said it was “absurd” the information was only revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request, and argued Congress should report appointments to the service academies annually.
As a result, the report suggests lawmakers log information about their applicant pool each year, reach out to high school guidance counselors to identify strong candidates from under-represented backgrounds, and hold several Academy Days with service academy alumnae.
The largest reported increase occurred at West Point.
Additionally, the report recommends members of Congress provide in-depth application information on an accessible website, communicate interest in a diverse applicant pool in promotional materials, and require service academies issue an annual report providing information on how many candidates by race, ethnicity, and gender were nominated annually by each lawmaker.
The report also advises the Government Accountability Office to conduct an examination of congressional nominations procedures.
“Our service members and veterans face incredible barriers in this country,” Brennan said. “Our elected officials should be working to break down those walls, but this report shows that they have been systematically routing far more young men than young women into elite opportunities at the academies.”
“Congress members need to actively recruit diverse nominees in order to produce military leadership that better reflects the country,” Brennan said.
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., said the report’s findings and recommendations were helpful and that her office does work with high school guidance counselors to facilitate greater applicant diversity.
“Members of Congress and America’s prestigious military service academies should improve opportunities for young women to attend the academies," Castor said in a statement to the Military Times.
"Students across my diverse and dynamic community deserve every opportunity to apply and receive a nomination no matter their background,” she said.
The report included all current lawmakers who have nominated more than 10 candidates to the academies.