An HVLA member flies the Joint Strike Fighter X-32 concept demonstrator over the Sierras. He was the only Air Force pilot in history to fly the X-32, and became the first, and only, pilot to take the X-32 supersonic at Edwards Air Force Base.

An HVLA member flies the Joint Strike Fighter X-32 concept demonstrator over the Sierras. He was the only Air Force pilot in history to fly the X-32, and became the first, and only, pilot to take the X-32 supersonic at Edwards Air Force Base.


HVLA Fact Sheet:


Latino Under-representation in Military Leadership Positions 

The latest figures from a 2017 Congressional Research Report showed that despite increases in demographic diversity in the Armed Forces over the past few decades, some have raised the concern that racial and gender diversity among senior leadership positions and the officer corps in general is not reflective of the enlisted troops they lead and the nation they serve. This is even more evident within the Latino community, where extensive recruitment efforts by the armed forces have led to a significant growth of Hispanic active duty enlisted corps, currently consistent with the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. (17% vs. 17.5%); however, when it comes to high ranking positions, Hispanics account for 7.5% of all officers but only about 1% of Flag officers. This begs the question why are Hispanics considered for the front line, but not the leadership line?


The Problem

·       In the twenty-two years between 1995 and 2016, Latino officers in the Armed Forces more than doubled—from 6,117 to 15,033, representing a remarkable increase from 3% to 7% of all officers.[1]


·      Despite the aforementioned, there was no corresponding increase in Latinos achieving General or Admiral posts. Of 15,033 active-duty Latino/a officers in 2016, only 15 were Generals & Admirals—of these 15, there was only one 3-star, and zero 4-stars.[2]


·       In 2009, Congress created a Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) to evaluate and assess policies that provide opportunities for the promotion and advancement of minority members of the Armed Forces.  One of the commission’s key findings was that the Armed Forces have not been successful in developing a continuous stream of leaders as demographically diverse as the nation they serve. And findings were even more evident among Hispanics than other minorities.


·       In fact, in 2016, although African-Americans only represented 8% of the total officer corps, slightly more than Latino officers at 7.5%, they produced more than FIVE times the number of Generals & Admirals than Latinos did. [3] This trend has been consistent for over 20 years.


·       In addition, female officers were a small minority in the Armed Forces until the mid-1970s, when legislation was passed to increase opportunities for women. 260 women graduated from the Air Force Academy in the first three classes that allowed females (1980, 1981 and 1982). This small number of women represented 0.0026 of all Air Force active-duty officers in 1980 (260 out of 97,649 total active-duty officers), yet some thirty-two years later this very small number of 260 female graduates produced more General Officer stars than the 10,000+ Latino officers who have ever served since the Air Force was created in 1947.


The Solution:

·       It is imperative that the armed forces take drastic measures immediately in order to close the minority gap that currently exists within its military leadership. HVLA is requesting that Congressional members include the creation of a Defense Advisory Committee on Latinos in the Services to be included in the 2019 Department of Defense Budget. The committee’s primary objective would be to focus greater attention on this issue and establish an effective strategy to rectify this disparity, especially as the Hispanic population continues to grow and is expected to reach 24 percent by 2065.[4]


·       There is a precedent to this solution and it’s the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). Since 1951, DACOWITS has played a major role in effecting changes in laws and policies pertaining to military women. This is the type of enduring commitment and focus that is needed to provide solutions to the problem of underrepresentation of Latinos in leadership roles.


Key References and Supporters


·       Admiral Mike Mullen, a U.S. Navy veteran, is considered one of the most influential Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in history. While testifying to the Military Leadership Diversity Commission on the topic of diversity in the Armed Forces, Admiral Mullen said: “But what I found was, because we had prioritized on African-Americans, we were nowhere with Hispanics—nowhere.”


·       Louis Caldera, a U.S. Army veteran, is the former Secretary of the Army in the Clinton Administration, and in the Obama White House served as an Assistant to the President and director of the White House Military Office. Louis Caldera stated: “The lack of Hispanic representation in the military is a situation that merits attention and action, particularly since ethnic minority groups will represent half of the nation’s population within the next 30 to 40 years, and presumably make up a substantial portion of military personnel.  Can the U.S. Armed Forces be optimally effective when the highest-ranking commanding officers are predominantly white, and 50 to 60 percent of the rank and file is minority personnel?” Excerpt from “Right Before Our Eyes: Latinos Past, Present & Future” by Robert Montemayor (page 35).


·       Alfred Valenzuela is a retired U.S. Army Major General who served for 33 years, and in 2000, was the highest-ranking active-duty Hispanic military officer in the U.S. In his book, co-written with Jason Lemons, he states: “Hispanic numbers at the general officer level is dismal compared to the number of Hispanic NCOs and soldiers in the ranks.  And because of the large number of Hispanic soldiers in the Special Operations, Special Forces, rangers, Infantry, Artillery, and Armor units, there is a much higher number of casualties among Hispanic soldiers.  To complement the aforementioned numbers, we have only fourteen female GOs and one three-star.  Forget the minority, and all the emphasis on recruiting levels leaves the honorable Hispanic soldier wondering why we are underrepresented at the higher levels.  My guess is that although we have come a long way, we will do no better for the next 232 years, because the strategic plan on diversity is all talk and no action…Thirty years later, I look around, check the statistics, and see more Hispanic soldiers and NCOs, but I just can’t seem to see Hispanic battalion and brigade commanders, much less general officers.  If you don’t think our soldiers can see the total disparity in the number of Hispanic soldiers to general officer ratio, you are underestimating the pride and joy of great soldiers who have won forty Congressional Medals of Honor, not to mention four of whom were noncitizens at the time…”



[1], Population Representation charts from 1995-2016

[2], 2016 Population Representation

[3], 2016 Population Representation

[4] Pew Research population projections