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Air Force tracking discipline data to ensure fairness

Air Force commanders are now required to track demographic data from lesser disciplinary actions to make sure they are being carried out fairly and impartially.

These disciplinary actions include administrative counseling, admonishments and reprimands, the Air Force said in a release Jan. 6. The Air Force plans to track rank, age, gender, race and ethnicity, of both airmen and Space Force guardians who are being punished, and those who issue the disciplinary actions.

The requirement was laid out in a Dec. 21 memo, the Air Force said.

Tracking this data “reinforces the department’s commitment to ensuring all airmen and guardians are treated fairly and provides commanders insight to facilitate positive practices, such as increased mentoring and professional development,” John Fedrigo, the Air Force’s principal deputy assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, said in the memo.

The Air Force began collecting data on nonjudicial punishments and courts-martial in 1974, the release said, and the new memo expands that data collection.

From now on, when airmen or guardians are to receive a letter of counseling, admonishment or reprimand that will be placed in their official record, including a personal information file or unfavorable information file, the demographic data will be tracked.

But names and other personally identifiable information will not be collected, the release said. Commanders will report the data to staff judge advocates at installations, who will make that demographic data available to commanders during briefings on discipline, or at other times.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Rockwell, the Department of the Air Force’s judge advocate general, said tracking data on lesser offenses will help commanders see trends and build a more disciplined force.

“This tool will help commanders facilitate positive practices such as increased mentoring and will ensure that every airman and guardian is given an equal opportunity to meet and exceed standards,” Rockwell said.

The Air Force also said in another Jan. 6 release that when climate surveys show commanders’ organizations are falling short on diversity, inclusion, belonging or equal opportunity-related categories, they must quickly act to fix those problems.

Commanders who score 49 percent or less in categories relating to those topics have 60 days, from the time they receive the climate survey reports, to create an action plan to address the findings.

“A diverse force and inclusive environment directly tie to mission success,” Fedrigo said in a memo, according to the release. “We all play a role in creating a healthy organizational climate, and it is critical we ensure a safe, engaged and inclusive environment for our airmen and guardians to achieve their full potential.”

The categories that would require an action plan are fairness, inclusion, leadership support, racism, sexism, sexually harassing behaviors, workplace hostility, cohesion and connectedness, the release said.

An action plan must summarize what the commander intends to do to conduct a climate assessment and then analyze it; a list of issues that need to be addressed, a plan to do so, and who will need to act; and a plan to publicly review the action plan with all members of the organization.

Equal opportunity offices are required to hold a follow-up meeting with the commander within six months of the report’s completion to ensure the plan is proceeding, the release said.

The Air Force has struggled to improve its diversity in recent years. Last summer, after the death of George Floyd and the nationwide movement to address racial discrimination that followed, the Air Force renewed its efforts to address discrimination and racial disparities in its own ranks.

An inspector general report issued last month found widespread and consistent differences in how Black airmen are treated in terms of career development and justice issues, as compared to airmen of other racial backgrounds.

A diversity and inclusion task force has, in recent months, identified ways to improve opportunities for minority airmen, including changes to dress and appearance regulations and increasing ROTC scholarships for minorities.

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