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Apology Given for Marine Chief's Remarks : Military: Gen. Mundy said on TV that minority officers do not run, swim, read compasses as well as whites. This is his third controversy this year.

November 03, 1993|ART PINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon issued an apology Tuesday for remarks made by Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr., commandant of the Marine Corps, who said in a televised interview that black officers and those of other minority groups do not shoot, swim or read compasses as well as whites.

In a statement to reporters, Navy Capt. Michael Doubleday said that Mundy "regrets any offense that may have been taken by his statements," which were televised Sunday on the CBS program "60 Minutes" as part of a segment on problems minority officers have receiving promotions.

Mundy's comments on "60 Minutes" marked the third time this year that the commandant has caused a stir. In mid-August, the general abruptly issued orders that would have barred married persons from enlisting in the Marines. He was forced to rescind them immediately after a protest by the President.

Earlier, Mundy angered the Administration by vigorously opposing Clinton's plan to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military. And he only grudgingly supported the resulting compromise "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gays to serve but restricts their behavior.

Asked about the latest incident, Doubleday said that top Pentagon officials had no plans to discipline Mundy for his comments but added that, partly as a result, Navy Secretary John H. Dalton had ordered a complete review of minority promotions in the Navy and Marine Corps.

Dalton "would like to see more minorities in positions of leadership" in the Navy and Marine Corps and wants the study "to examine the process and to determine how we can achieve that objective," Doubleday said.

A spokesman for California Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Oakland), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it was unclear whether the lawmaker would want to meet with Mundy over the incident. Dellums, who is black, plans hearings later this year on racism in the military.

Mundy's remarks on "60 Minutes" were contained in a transcript provided by the Pentagon. Asked why some minority officers complain that they are not being promoted rapidly, the general said it "has to do with performance."

"In the military skills, we find that the minority officers do not shoot as well as the non-minorities . . .," he said. "They don't swim as well. And when you give them a compass and send them across the terrain at night . . . they don't do as well at that sort of thing.

"I'm saying that there are problems that we have got to identify that will show us what it is that causes us to promote at a reduced rate," the general went on, in a brief segment on the program. "It is not intended that we do that."

Doubleday said Tuesday that Mundy was referring only to the "objective test scores achieved in certain skills during initial entry-level training" and did not mean to suggest that members of minority groups could not do well in the Corps.

"He (Mundy) would like to see more minorities in positions of leadership," the Pentagon spokesman added.

And the Marines issued a statement saying that, because only part of the interview with Munday was telecast, "it may have sounded . . . that he was implying minorities have less innate ability . . . to fully develop their military capability through training and education."

"That was not his intent or belief," the statement went on.

"As an institution, the Marine Corps is totally committed for equal opportunity for all individuals to compete and advance through the ranks, and is aggressively pursuing initiatives to gain balance in our senior officer representation."

White House officials said Tuesday that they had not been aware of Mundy's comments but were looking into the matter.

Pentagon figures show that in fiscal 1991, there were 34,200 black enlisted men and women in the Marine Corps--19.7% of the total--and 980 black officers, or 5.1% of the service's officer corps. Figures for Latinos and other minority groups were not immediately available.

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