The Marine Corps is the latest service branch to announce a policy removing official photos from promotion considerations.
The directive states "photographs are not authorized information for promotion boards and selection processes pertaining to assignment, training, education, and command," according to MARADMIN 491/20. It takes effect Tuesday.
The Army implemented a similar policy in August.
For those Marines who have already submitted promotion packages or have included recently-updated selection photos to their Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), those photos will not be considered by the board when selecting candidates for promotion, assignment, training, education, or command.
The move is in response to a larger effort to address diversity in the military, which includes the establishment of a Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion by Secretary Dr. Mark Esper.
Esper released a memorandum in mid-summer calling for "immediate actions to address diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in the military services." The document outlines several tasks on how the different branches are to address these issues within the services including updating the department's equal opportunity and diversity inclusion policies, increasing training regarding diversity, racial bias, and equal opportunity, updating policies on grooming with regards to racial differences and removing photographs from promotion boards and selection processes.
Read the full memo here: Immediate Actions to Address Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity in the Military Services
Though photographs will be removed from OMPFs, additional guidance is expected that includes "provisions for establishing diverse selection panels and the removal of all references to race, ethnicity, and gender in personnel packets reviewed by panel members." These processes will help to ensure that promotion boards and selection processes "enable equal opportunity for all service members, promote diversity … and are free from bias based on race, ethnicity, gender or national origin." The USD(P&R) has until the end of September to provide this additional guidance to all branches.
The Council of Foreign Relations examined diversity rates across all branches of the military. For the Marine Corps, about 90% of male enlisted recruits and 70% of female enlisted recruits are white. Only 15% of male and female enlisted recruits are Black, and Asians only represent about 5% of the enlisted recruit population. However, the Marine Corps has a higher rate of Hispanics than any other branch — outweighing the civilian workforce — with about 30% male and almost 40% of female recruits being of Hispanic ethnicity.
CFR also found that racial diversity decreases at the upper ranks with data showing generals to be disproportionately white. Complete findings can be found at Demographics of the U.S. Military.