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Lawmakers decry U.S. military’s drift to DEI culture

By Casey Harper
The Center Square

The U.S. military’s ongoing embrace of the far-left culture war has drawn increased attention and ire from lawmakers.

Despite Pentagon officials waving off concerns, a steady stream of evidence has shown that the most progressive ideas on race, gender and sexuality have become the norm, in particular within the administrative parts of the U.S. military.

"The Biden Administration has made implementing woke Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives a more important mission than protecting Americans,” U.S. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., told The Center Square. “Our military is strongest when it is focused on training patriotic men and women to become the most lethal fighting force in the world."

In one recent example roundly mocked by critics, the U.S. Department of Defense called diversity a “strategic imperative” in a post on X.

“Diversity is a strategic imperative critical to mission readiness and accomplishment,” the February post said. “We were on site for the 2023 inaugural @DoD_ODEI Summit as DEIA experts led forums to advance the DEIA and DoD mission – because our people matter.”

The Pentagon has prioritized equity and diversity in hiring, promotion and recruitment and expanded roles specifically focused not on military readiness, but diversity.

Lawmakers argue the DEI focus is a wasteful distraction at best and dangerous at worst.

"Our U.S. Department of Defense must be solely focused on strengthening our military to counter and deter against all threats in an increasingly dangerous world,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told The Center Square. “Embracing woke culture rhetoric only makes our military appear unserious to our adversaries, especially China.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month raising concerns about the emphasis on DEI during his tenure.

“DoD has made the outlandish claim that diversity is a ‘strategic imperative critical to mission readiness and accomplishment’ and argued that leveraging strategic diversity is the ‘the only way DoD will be able to outthink, outmaneuver, and outfight any adversary or threat,’” the letter said. “The White House’s Office of Management and Budget made the similarly unsupported allegation that numerous provisions in the House version of the FY24 NDAA aimed at eliminating or scaling back DEI positions and programs at DoD would put our military ‘at a strategic disadvantage.’”

In 2021, Austin enacted a plan called “Stand-Down to AddressExtremism in the Ranks,” which was an extensive study and use of federal resources only to find that “no evidence that the number of violent extremists in the military is disproportionate to the number of violent extremists in the United States as a whole.”

Then, as the letter points out, the Pentagon created the Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, yet another administrative equity effort.

“Each of the services have promoted diversity with similar overenthusiasm and disregard for taxpayers,” the letter said. “For example, the U.S. Air Force created a SAF/DI DEIA Progress Dashboard to evaluate its progress towards achieving diversity goals, the Secretary of the Navy issued a memorandum directing the Chief of Naval Operations to take six immediate actions to advanceDEI, and the U.S. Army published a detailed diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility implementation plan.”

And those policies come with significant spending of taxpayer dollars.

“Despite the hiring freeze and a budget cap, the Department has inexplicably requested $162 million for DEI initiatives in Fiscal Year 2025,” the letter continued. “Before Congress spends any more of Americans’ tax dollars on these programs, I believe that the Office of Secretary of Defense must demonstrate their value.”

Rubio’s office released a report in 2022 with U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, on the role of DEI in the military laying out several examples that illustrate a larger trend.

In one case, as The Center Square previously reported, a slide show for the Air Force Academy cadets entitled, “Diversity & Inclusion: What it is, why we care, & what we can do,” cautions cadets to avoid using gendered language such as terms like “dad” and “mom.”

In another case, training West Point cadets were lectured on white privilege.

“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended teaching CRT at U.S. Service Academies and testified to Congress about his desire to understand ‘white rage,’” the report said. “He argued that American taxpayer money should be spent to ensure cadets and midshipmen learn what ‘caused thousands of people to assault [the Capitol] Building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States.’ The Biden Administration is choosing to focus on and fund the study of racial extremism even when – as the [“Countering Extremist Activity Working Group] showed – it is a virtual non-issue in the military.”

Critics point out the push to DEI is part of a larger effort across the entire federal government.

Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation argued the DEI ideas “have harmed military recruitment, put us at a disadvantage against our military rivals or commercial competitors, and have been shown not to work.”

“While we see some private corporations trying to walk away from DEI and banks trying to discreetly put ESG behind them – because these practices have proved divisive and money losing – the Biden Administration has continued to embrace DEI with both hands,” Gonzalez told The Center Square. “The reason? The people around the President and in key places throughout the administration are either committed ideologically to these ​theories, or they think that they must politically pander to the woke minority if they have a hope of winning in November.”

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