The Navy announced two separate actions yesterday designed to improve the life of blacks and other minorities in its ranks.
One is a remedial education program to enable the undereducated to qualify for better Navy jobs, and the other is a crackdown on "racist activity," such as Ku Klux Klan organizations on ships.
Critics complain that the Navy's current admittance standards discriminate against blacks and other minorities because their education is inferior to that of whites.
Out of every 100 young men in a given racial group volunteering for the Navy, 75 must score high enough to qualify for technical schools before 25 who do not meet those qualifications can get into the Navy.
Under the new system to go into effect Oct. 1, all 100 volunteers, assuming they met minimum entrance requirements, would be taken into the Navy, whether or not they qualified for specialty skill schooling. Those with low scores would receive remedial education in reading, writing and arithmetic in the hope they could improve enough to qualify for Navy technical schools.
Besides responding to what such critics as Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) and the American Civil Liberties Union had termed "blatant" and "illegal" quota system, the Navy, by eliminating it, will avail itself of more volunteers at a time recruiters cannot meet goals.
Specifically, the Navy figures that this "upward mobility" policy will open the door this year to 2,000 blacks, 600 other minorities and 400 whites who would not otherwise be admitted.
The remedial education program will be financed by money now on hand, a Navy spokesman said.
Another effect of the new enlistment policy is expected to be a larger percentage of blacks in the Navy. Now 9.4 percent of the Navy's enlisted force of 462,000 is black -- lowest percentage of any service.
Navy leaders have defended the quality control system as a way to keep a disproportionate percentage of minorities from filling menial jobs such as cook and deckhand. They blamed rioting on some ships in the Vietnam war on the disillusionment of sailors relegated to menial jobs.
There is no guarantee that enlistees who score low will end up in technical schools after going through remedial courses now being organized In that sense, the new policy is an experiment in upgrading undereducated young people.
In the second action designed to make Navy life happier for minorities, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, chief of naval operations, recently issued orders to his ship and shore commanders to "deal effectively with racist activity."
Although the Ku Klux Klan was not mentioned in his message, Hayward acted while sailors identified as Klan members have been scattered among ships in the Atlantic Fleet to break up racist activity.
"Recent incidents within the Navy involving racist organizations highlight the need for every commander to be fully aware of command responsibilities for enforcing antidiscrimination policies," Hayward said. "Prejudice and preparedness are incompatible."