NJ National Guard investigates claims of bias

 Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, who heads the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, told lawmakers Thursday the inspector general is looking into  claims of racial bias. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, who heads the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, told lawmakers Thursday the inspector general is looking into claims of racial bias. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

The leader of New Jersey’s National Guard says he’s confident an investigation now under way will refute claims of racial bias.

Four senior officers claim African-Americans and Hispanics have been passed over for promotion.

Appearing before a state Senate committee, Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs said the National Guard meets diversity standards.

“We recruit from the population in New Jersey, and recruiting from the population in New Jersey ensures a very diverse workforce,” he said. “I assure you they all have an equal footing for promotions and rank advancement, although it’s not an entitlement.”

Sen. Sandra Cunningham questioned Cunniff about the claims that some qualified officers have not been promoted because of race.

“People work too hard to get to the point where they’re in the military and they want to better themselves,” said Cunningham, D-Hudson. “And if they’re stopped, not because of anything they’ve done, then that’s just not fair.”

Cunniff explained the allegations as a few officers who are unhappy with how their careers are ending.

A diversity survey shows 95 percent of National Guard personnel don’t have an issue with its diversity, he said.

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