WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK (November 29, 2023) — Current and former officers in the United States Army have gone to court in their personal capacities to argue in favor of affirmative action at West Point. In an amicus brief submitted today, these West Point graduates tell a federal judge that they have seen first-hand how a diverse officer corps makes for a more lethal and effective Army. This marks the first time that current military officers have filed a brief in court to defend affirmative action. They are speaking out now because they know that ending race-conscious admissions policies at the Military Academy would get American troops killed.

Attorneys at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) submitted this “friend of the court” brief on behalf of 107 current and former officers in the United States Army (collectively, “Amici”), in a lawsuit challenging the limited use of race as a factor in West Point admissions. The current and former officers appearing on the brief are all graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, including multiple West Point valedictorians and First Captains, as well as combat veterans, members of elite special operations units, and Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright scholars. Together, these current and former officers argue that, based on their personal experiences, the diversity fostered by West Point’s admissions process is crucial to training cadets to be effective leaders of multiracial army units and protect national security.

“Diversity in the ranks of our military is a combat multiplier,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael E. Turner, a 1987 graduate of West Point. “It is one factor that gives our Armed Forces an added advantage over our adversaries.”

Amici signed onto the brief in their personal, private capacities, drawing on their experiences in the line of duty. They argue, supported by a number of concrete examples from their first-hand experiences, that diversity in West Point’s admissions is necessary for officers to gain critical leadership skills that are required to preserve unit cohesion and successfully complete Army missions. In short, America’s ability to win wars depends on diversity within the Army’s officer corps.

“As a Master Parachutist having served tours with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, a Master Aviator, and a Bronze Star combat veteran, I consider race-conscious admissions and diversity as essential to unit cohesion and combat capability,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Brice, who graduated West Point in 1972 and co-authored the 1971 Black Cadet Manifesto.

In one example, the brief describes the experience of a white male cadet raised in the deep South, who hung a Confederate flag on his dorm room wall as a freshman. His experiences training with a diverse group of peers changed his viewpoint and allowed him to gain essential perspective and communication skills. After graduation, he applied those skills as a platoon leader in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment to rebuild his unit’s cohesion after a white sergeant was dismissed for hazing a black soldier. This, he believes, saved lives.

“As our enemies become increasingly sophisticated, and warfighting becomes increasingly multidimensional, the U.S. Army needs soldiers with unique ways of solving problems,” said Cpt. (Former) Robert Moser, who graduated West Point in 2018. “In a homogenous force, groupthink increases and creativity decreases, all bad news when we try to win wars.”

The amicus brief was filed in response to a lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an organization founded for the purpose of attacking affirmative action admissions policies at educational institutions. SFFA recently succeeded in striking down the use of race in admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina in the Supreme Court of the United States. But Amici argue that West Point is different from those schools because it has a uniquely important mission beyond academic excellence: training effective officers who can lead a diverse Army of soldiers to win wars, keep peace, and protect national security.

SFFA has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the case, requesting that the federal district court in the Southern District of New York stop West Point from using race as a factor in admissions while the lawsuit is pending. But, as Amici explain, the diversity fostered by race-conscious admissions has helped them overcome serious challenges in their leadership of American troops after graduating, and if the Court were to halt the policy, it could have serious national security implications.

In other examples, the brief describes how Amici have relied on the skills imparted by their diverse classes at West Point to counsel soldiers who believe they have been subjected to discrimination, effectively train international allies from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and maintain unit trust by acknowledging different perspectives during nationwide protests following the murder of George Floyd. This diversity, Amici argue, is essential to help prevent the Army from returning to the type of destructive racial unrest that cost soldiers’ lives in Vietnam before race-conscious admissions at West Point were introduced.

About the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP)
ICAP uses strategic legal advocacy to defend constitutional rights and values while working to restore confidence in the integrity of our governmental institutions. A non-partisan institute within Georgetown University Law Center, ICAP’s experienced attorneys use novel litigation tools, strategic policy development, and the constitutional scholarship of Georgetown to vindicate individuals’ rights and protect our democratic processes. More information about ICAP can be found at law.georgetown.edu/icap.

Press Contact:
Maria Duarte Villa, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, md1890@georgetown.edu, 202-661-6535 ext. 16535