Ashley Murray, Georgia Recorder
January 11, 2024
WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. House lawmakers, led by Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, conducted a hearing Thursday to examine the possibility that “wokeness” hurts U.S. military readiness and effectiveness.
The winding, over two-hour hearing by a subpanel of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability broached topics including, but not limited to, recruitment, benefits for military families, Marxism, Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s monthslong blockade of military promotions, military desegregation, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and even a relitigation of the end of the Vietnam War.
The hearing did not focus on any specific proposals.
In his opening remarks, Grothman, who chairs the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border and Foreign Affairs, said the military is “grappling with the Biden Administration’s social experiments of integrating principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion — or ‘DEI’— into their ranks.”
Among his concerns, Grothman highlighted the Pentagon’s roughly $114 million request for the programs in the military’s $884 billion authorized, but not yet funded, budget.
“To be clear, acknowledging the various experiences of our service members may have the potential to enhance our overall strength and resilience as a nation and fighting force,” Grothman continued. “But at the end of the day, our differences must yield to what we have in common. A duty to protect the American freedoms we hold so dear.”
The GOP-led subcommittee’s invited witnesses told the panel that DEI policies and alleged quotas undermine the military’s professionalism, and are the cause of lagging recruit numbers, which are down 39% since a recent peak in 1987, according to the nonprofit USAFacts.
The Pentagon reported the military services collectively missed their recruiting goals by 41,000 in fiscal year 2023.
“I watched DEI trainings divide our troops ideologically and in some cases sow the seeds of animosity toward the very country they had sworn to defend,” said witness Matt Lohmeier, a U.S. Space Force veteran who told lawmakers he was fired from his command for his views on DEI in 2021, the same year he published the book “Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest and the Unmaking of the American Military.”
Democrat objects to DEI arguments
The Pentagon did not provide a response to the criticism, including specific accusations of quotas, when asked Thursday afternoon.
However, the subcommittee’s ranking member Robert Garcia vehemently opposed many claims voiced in Thursday’s hearing and pushed back on the notion that DEI policies are the culprit behind declining enlistment.
“Data and evidence show sexual assault, mental health care, affordable childcare are all real factors that affect military recruitment, retention and readiness,” Garcia, a California Democrat, said, expressing that he was “dismayed and disappointed” that Thursday’s hearing was a regurgitated version of a subpanel hearing held in March.
“The idea that quote ‘wokeness’ is a top national security threat did not make any sense then and does not make any sense today, and it makes even less sense now given the world that we face,” Garcia continued.
What the surveys say
Military-sponsored and other analyses reveal reasons for apprehension about modern U.S. military service.
Youths ages 16 to 21 reported in 2022 the possibility of injury or death as their top reason not to join the military, according to the Department of Defense’s Joint Advertising, Market Research and Studies latest available annual survey.
Other top reasons included possibility of PTSD or other emotional issues; leaving family and friends; other career interests; and dislike of the military lifestyle.
Among the leading reasons cited by the youth for joining the military were money, college tuition payments, travel, paid health care and the opportunity to learn work skills.
An analysis by the RAND Corporation found that while Americans still overwhelmingly have positive views of veterans, a majority would discourage a young person from enlisting in the ranks.
However the 2023 analysis by one of the leading defense research firms found that 61.2% of American adults would encourage youth to join the Reserve Officers Training Corps, commonly called ROTC, or apply to a service academy.
The analysis also reports that nearly one-quarter of adults believe that most Americans look up to military service members, while only 4% believe the public looks negatively upon them.
‘The armed forces were wrecked’ by 1970
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule told the panel Thursday that the U.S. military is more effective today because of social change precipitated by Congress over several decades as gender barriers fell and legally protected classes expanded.
Seidule, another witness before the subcommittee, said that though President Harry Truman ordered military desegregation in 1948, changes did not occur until Congress demanded it in the 1970s.
By 1971, “race relations were at its nadir and drug use at its peak. The armed forces were wrecked and unable to defend the nation,” said Seidule, a visiting professor of history at Hamilton College, and professor emeritus of history at West Point.
The Department of Defense created the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute in 1971 to develop standards and training. The institute is funded by Congress each year, and continues to provide education, expanding in recent years to cultural awareness, human relations and harassment prevention, according to the department.
“Over the next twenty years, DoD instituted and internalized a culture of diversity that transformed the military and brought victory in the first Gulf War. The military has been working on diversity for a long time because it works,” Seidule said.
Other changes that followed included permitting women to attend the service academies, and ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the President Bill Clinton-era policy that allowed LGBTQ members to serve as long as they kept their sexual orientation hidden. Among other changes Seidule highlighted: ending combat exclusion for women and removing the commemoration of the Confederacy.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 added requirements for a Pentagon-wide Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisors for Diversity and Inclusion for each department.
House Republicans passed a version of the annual defense legislation for fiscal year 2024 that would have eliminated all DEI programs and positions at the Pentagon, but the amendments were struck from the final version.
However, negotiators landed on a hiring freeze and pay grade cap for DEI employees to be included in the NDAA text approved by Congress in December.
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