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This report assesses minority representation and recruiting in special operations forces (SOF). It examines the extent of underrepresentation of minorities in SOF and the reasons for it and provides recommendations to help improve such underrepresentation. The authors used personnel data from the U.S. Special Operations Command and the various component commands to portray the racial/ethnic composition of SOF and compared it to the racial/ethnic composition of different comparison groups. The study found that minorities are, indeed, underrepresented in SOF — especially blacks. Barriers to joining SOF consisted of structural barriers such as the ASVAB score cutoffs and the swimming requirement, perceptual barriers such as lack of knowledge and community support and lack of identification with SOF, as well as a possible lack of interest in SOF. The authors offer several recommendations to overcome these barriers.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Are Minorities Underrepresented in SOF?

  • Chapter Three

    Barriers to Minority Participation in the Assessment and Training Process

  • Chapter Four

    Qualitative Methodology

  • Chapter Five

    Perceptions of SOF and a SOF Career As Barriers to Participation

  • Chapter Six

    Lack of Individual Knowledge and Community Support of SOF As a Barrier to Participation

  • Chapter Seven

    Lack of Identification As a Barrier to Participation

  • Chapter Eight

    Swimming Requirement As a Barrier to Participation

  • Chapter Nine

    Lack of Interest in SOF As a Barrier to Minority Participation

  • Chapter Ten

    Service Efforts to Increase Minority Representation in SOF

  • Chapter Eleven

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    SOF: Background and Missions

  • Appendix B

    SOF Assessment and Training

  • Appendix C

    Defining Source Populations for SOF

  • Appendix D

    Comparisons of SOF with Selected Civilian Organizations

  • Appendix E

    Analysis of Army SFAS Data, FY94-FY97

  • Appendix F

    Protocols for Focus Group Discussions

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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