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Veteran group sues Pentagon for not turning over diversity data

The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. (Dreamstime/TNS)
September 28, 2022

A veterans organization is suing the Pentagon for not responding to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for data from U.S. Air Force Academy’s diversity efforts.

The veterans organization Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services (STARRS) filed its lawsuit on Friday after waiting nearly two years for the Air Force Academy to respond to its original FOIA request. The conservative legal watchdog organization, Judicial Watch, prepared the lawsuit on STARRS’ behalf.

According to the Washington Examiner, STARRS is an organization of retired service members who are alarmed by the U.S. military’s growing focus on diversity. The group argues this focus on diversity is at the expense of the military’s actual war-fighting ability.

STARRS originally submitted a FOIA request in October of 2020 after Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the then-Air Force Academy superindent, issued a July 8, 2020, memo announcing an “institutional assessment and review for biases within our policies, processes, practices, curriculum, and artifacts.”

Silveria’s memo said the objective of the review was “to assess and capture racial disparities specific to African Americans and other identity groups.”

STARRS’ FOIA request asked about “the existence, prevalence and nature of, and remedial actions taken regarding, ‘systemic racism,’ ‘discrimination,’ and ‘racial bias,’ respectively.”

STARRS filed a second FOIA request on June 9, 2021, asking about the minutes of an Association of Graduates Class Advisory Senate meeting in which the group mentioned a diversity and inclusion study that was conducted last summer.

On Sept. 29, 2021, the academy informed STARRS that it still hadn’t processed their first FOIA request, and provided them a case number for the request. The academy also said it hadn’t processed the second request either.

According to the new lawsuit, the academy did follow up on the first FOIA request last month, referring to it by a different case number that was off by one digit. The academy again informed STARRS that their initial FOIA request had not been processed.

STARRS has received no further updates on its second FOIA request.

The lawsuit now calls for a court to compel the academy to turn over the requested records and requests they be made to repay the attorney’s fees and other litigation costs STARRS has incurred while trying to get a response to their information requests.

The lawsuit comes just days after Fox News obtained Air Force Academy diversity and inclusion training materials which, among other things, advised cadets to avoid using words like “mom and dad.” The training materials further advised using gender-neutral language, stating “use words that include all genders​: ‘Folks’ or ‘Y’all’ instead of ‘guys’; ‘partner’ vs. ‘boyfriend or girlfriend.’”