Senators Shaheen, Young Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Bias in Military Promotions

September 25, 2020

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the bipartisan Combatting Bias in Military Promotions Act. Their legislation would require the Department of Defense (DoD) to eliminate certain identifying information from being presented to military officer promotion boards that may result in a biased promotion decision.  

“Providing service members with every opportunity to succeed and rise through their ranks in service to their country is a national security priority to ensure we have the best and brightest at the helm,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Young on this bipartisan effort to reform how military promotions are determined by rooting out any criteria that could be used to discriminate against eligible officers. As our nation faces new and evolving threats to our national defense, it’s imperative that we empower and invest in our most talented, experienced and qualified officers across all branches.”

“As a Marine, I understand that removing bias and prejudice from the force is critical to help strengthen the cohesiveness of units and enable our military to accomplish complex missions around the globe. By removing information such as race and gender from promotion materials, we can ensure that promotion boards would assess and evaluate officers based purely on their merits and accomplishments. While I am encouraged that some of these actions are being considered by the Department of Defense, protecting the integrity of our promotion process must be codified to ensure that all biases, whether conscious or unconscious, are not able to influence the military’s promotion decisions,” said Senator Young.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit the inclusion of information in a promotion board packet that indicates the name, gender, age, race, or a photograph of the officer. Instead, that information would be replaced by a unique identifier which would enable the Department to use a number, such as a unique military service number or their Social Security Number, to identify the individual eligible for promotion.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently announced that he would be taking action against discrimination, prejudice, and bias across the DoD, including eliminating photographs from consideration by promotion boards and selection processes. The Combatting Bias in Military Promotions Act would codify this DoD action and expand it to eliminate additional information from the packet that may result in a biased promotion. Bill text of the legislation is available here.