Jorge Mariscal -
With the beginning of a new year and a second Obama term, it is time once again to take stock of the relationship between the Latino community and the U.S. military. As we outlined in Draft NOtices more than a decade ago, Latinos will continue to make up the largest military age cohort for many years to come. According to one Department of Defense study, Latinos, who made up 20% of the recruiting market in 2010, will comprise 38% by 2050. The Pentagon’s so-called Hispanic initiatives, begun in the late 1990s, were based on these projections and had the explicit goal of increasing dramatically the number of Latinos in all military branches.
At the beginning of 2013, it appears that recruiting efforts have not kept up with the growing Latino community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall Hispanic population in 2011 was 16.7% (or 18.6% of the civilian labor force). In 2011, the percentage of Latina and Latino active duty enlisted members in all branches stood at only 12.3%. In the wake of a 3.3% increase in Latino enlistments between 2000 and 2003 (arguably the consequence of Hispanic recruitment campaigns as well as increased pay and benefits), the American invasion and occupation of Iraq produced an abrupt drop-off in enlistees during the four-year period that followed.