In the recent oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas, and in his amicus brief on behalf of the United States, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli emphasized the military rationale for affirmative action. Without racial preferences in college admissions, we will not have an adequate supply of minority officers in the armed forces, which would undermine military efficiency. As the brief puts it:
Military leaders have concluded that an officer corps that is markedly less diverse than the enlisted ranks, and that is unattuned to the diverse perspectives of those they must lead, can undermine the military’s combat readiness. Fostering a pipeline of well-prepared and diverse officer candidates is therefore an urgent military priority. That military policy judgment reflects the lessons of actual battlefield experience during the Vietnam War when the disparity between the overwhelmingly white officer corps and the highly diverse enlisted ranks “threatened the integrity and performance” of the military.
The same argument played an important role in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, which ruled that racial preferences can be used to promote diversity in college admissions:
[H]igh-ranking retired officers and civilian leaders of the United States military assert that, “[b]ased on [their] decades of experience,” a “highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps … is essential to the military’s ability to fulfill its principle mission to provide national security.” Brief for Julius W. Becton, Jr. et al. as Amici Curiae 27. The primary sources for the Nation’s officer corps are the service academies and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the latter comprising students already admitted to participating colleges and universities. Id., at 5. At present, “the military cannot achieve an officer corps that is both highly qualified and racially diverse unless the service academies and the ROTC used limited race-conscious