This research brief describes work documented in Barriers to Minority Participation in Special Operations Forces (MR-1042-SOCOM).

Excerpt: Special Operations Forces (SOF) represent some of the nation's most elite forces, including Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and Rangers, Navy SEALs, and Air Force Combat Control Teams (CCTs) and Pararescue Jumpers (PJs). Members of these highly trained units give the nation an important military capability, particularly in the post-Cold War era when the services must carry out a host of nontraditional missions. SOF perform a wide range of activities in diverse settings. On any given day, they are operating in 50 countries. Thus, it was a matter of concern in Congress to note a "significant underrepresentation" of minorities in these important units. A group of researchers from RAND's National Defense Research Institute led by Margaret C. Harrell and Sheila Nataraj Kirby assessed the minority representation in these five types of units with an eye to answering two questions: Are minorities underrepresented and, if so, are there barriers that hinder them from joining SOF?

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.