Newly published research from RAND Europe, which recognizes the strategic benefits of diversity in UK and US military recruitment, hot on the heels of the United States Marine Corps’ (USMC) announcement to adjust intake body mass requirements for female recruits.
RAND Europe consulted with private sector technology companies for its report, Harnessing Diversity for Military Effectiveness, to explore the contribution of neurologically diverse service members to the development of emerging technologies, recommending that waivers be granted for recruits with autism who are not normally eligible for service. The research examines the fit requirement in non-cybersecurity related roles as a barrier to achieving recruitment targets in cybersecurity related occupations.
With the growing importance of AI and algorithmic targeting technologies within the armed forces, the report’s authors draw particular attention to the need to incorporate input from a diverse set of studies and designs to avoid embedding systemic discrimination and improve overall accuracy of results.
Ben Caves, senior research leader at RAND Europe, said: “It is clear that the UK and US military face a range of new challenges on a number of fronts. Our research finds that to meet these challenges, the military needs diverse perspectives and skills – and that means recruiting, retaining and promoting a diverse workforce.”
USMC body composition standards updated
In the US, recognition of the need to adjust selection practices to reflect the diversity of recruits has already paid off. After a year-long study to evaluate current body composition standards, the USMC announced that starting in early 2023, there will be a 1 percent increase in total allowable body fat for USMC recruits.
Combined with more accurate measurement, the new testing process is believed to falsely identify 6.3 percent fewer female Marines as exceeding body fat standards, allowing them to enlist.
“We have updated the maximum percentage allowed for women to reflect what the science has told us is an equally balanced and standardized body composition across the force,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin Iams, commanding general, Training and Education Command. USMC.
Diversity as a strategic advantage
RAND Europe’s research questions identified the recruitment of service personnel with language skills and cultural understanding that better reflect a diverse population as a strategic benefit relevant to overseas theaters of operations. The authors recommend increasing the diversity of recruiters as a key step to improving this outreach goal.
Since 2015, the proportion of BAME personnel joining the UK’s regular forces has increased from 5.2% in, to 13.7% in 2020, exceeding earlier targets, with 17, 9% in the British Army, compared to 8% in the Royal Navy and 5.9% in the Royal Air Force, as of 2020 biennial diversity statisticswith from the Ministry of Defence.
The RAND report suggests that blanket waivers for disabilities in specific career fields risk stigmatizing the career field and people with disabilities in those careers, and the advice it follows is to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis to address specific threats.