Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) directed state officials today to conduct a "comprehensive review" of recruiting and promotion at the Virginia National Guard because of concerns that the state agency has failed to promote minorities to higher ranks.
Gilmore asked Virginia's secretary of public safety to make sure the Virginia Guard is adequately recruiting African Americans and promoting them to senior ranks.
The governor's action came in response to an article in Monday's Washington Post. It said that few minorities have reached higher levels of seniority and that no black member has made general.
"I am deeply concerned about allegations raised . . . over recruitment and promotion of African Americans in the Virginia National Guard," Gilmore wrote in a memo to Public Safety Secretary Gary K. Aronhalt.
The National Guard should "reflect the best traditions of fairness, equal opportunity and promotion of the best and brightest soldiers, regardless of race or gender," Gilmore said.
Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard, said he will begin a thorough review Tuesday of its recruitment and promotion of African American officers, as requested by Gilmore.
"We don't have anything to hide in the Virginia National Guard, I can assure you of this," Williams said. "I'm anxious to give the governor all the information we have, and I think the governor is going to be pleased."
The Virginia National Guard is reaching out to minorities by recruiting new officers from historically black colleges and establishing mentoring programs for minority officers, Williams said.
Minorities make up one-third of the approximately 7,700 members of the Virginia Army National Guard and yet account for only one in 10 of the officers, The Post reported. All the generals are white, as are 31 of the 33 colonels. In the Virginia Air National Guard, the eight top-ranking officers are white men.
A Virginia Army National Guard equal opportunity report concluded in December that the officer ranks "appear to have a . . . serious problem when it comes to achieving parity, and it is evident that special attention is needed in this area." A 1996 report raised the same concerns.
Gilmore's memo said the review should analyze the Guard's equal opportunity policies and procedures. He also asked for the Guard to look into recruiting and training of African Americans for National Guard Officer Candidate School and senior noncommissioned officer schools.
Gilmore asked for the findings and a recommendation to be completed by March 10.
"The goal here is to get all of the facts," said Gilmore spokesman Mark Miner. "If there are problems at the National Guard, the governor is going to get to the bottom of it."
Minorities make up 39 percent of the Maryland Army National Guard and 17 percent of the officer corps. One of three brigadier generals is a member of a minority group, as are 19 percent of colonels and 17 percent of sergeants major. In the Maryland Air National Guard, all 13 generals and colonels are white men.