GOP lawmakers resume assault on Pentagon’s ‘too woke’ military

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Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill returned to the attack in the new year, blasting the Biden administration again for what they said was its focus on pushing progressive policies inside the Defense Department to the detriment of military readiness.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin Republican, used a Thursday on Hill hearing to accuse the White House of forcing the Pentagon to indulge in “social experiments” such as imposing the “woke” principles of DEI — diversity, equity, and inclusion — on those serving in the ranks.

Recent Supreme Court rulings have put race-conscious and DEI programs under new scrutiny in academia and the corporate world, and the Pentagon does not look like it will be spared.

“The Pentagon often fails to recognize the financial burden these priorities place on taxpayers. DEI managers are making over $180,000 per year, which in my mind sends a message in its own right,” said Mr. Grothman, who chairs the House Oversight subcommittee on national security, the border, and foreign affairs.

“In fact, the Department of Defense recently requested $114 million for diversity and inclusion initiatives as part of the president’s fiscal year 2024 budget request. Unbelievable,” he said.

Testifying at the hearing was Matthew Lohmeier, a former Space Force lieutenant colonel fired in 2021 after criticizing what he said was the imposition of critical race theory principles in the military, an academic approach that puts race at the center of American history and social analysis.

“I criticized the military’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training, which at my own base, was illegally occurring despite an executive order from the commander-in-chief,” Mr. Lohmeier said. “I watched these trainings divide our troops ideologically, and in some cases, sow the seeds of animosity towards the very country they had sworn an oath to defend.”

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, a former West Point history professor who helped lead the commission that expunged Confederate names and images from U.S. military posts and other sites, countered that the U.S. armed forces are the best because the military “reflects and represents the greatest country in the world.”

“Diversity is the military’s strength because diversity is America’s strength. No other nation can bring together such disparate people to create a military as effective as ours,” Brig. Gen. Seidule said. “The military’s half-century commitment to equal opportunity and diversity has created a more lethal, effective, and cohesive force.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican, said the military has traditionally been among the most respected institutions in America. One of the reasons is that the armed forces had traditionally not been drawn into divisive political wedge issues. That, she said, has changed under President Biden.

“Politics has gotten into our military. We’ve seen the demonization of our active duty military and our veterans,” she said. “Qualifications actually matter. When you’re in the trenches and when you’re in war, it doesn’t matter what you actually look like.”

Rep. Robert Garcia of California, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, said he was “dismayed and disappointed” to be at Thursday’s hearing. He said focusing on allegations that a “woke” ideology has infected the Pentagon will do little to help solve the actual problems impacting military members — such as the need for improved mental health support and cracking down on sexual violence in the military.

“To recruit from the most diverse generation in history, we also need a military that looks like America. We need a cohesive military that does not allow bigotry in its ranks,” he said. “The idea that ‘wokeness’ is a top national security threat … does not make any sense today.”

Will Thibeau, a former Army Ranger now with the American Military Project at the Claremont Institute think tank, said “objective military professionalism” is seen today as only one factor among many for evaluating a candidate’s ranking in the armed forces. He said the philosophy was toxic for military units because it undermines the concept of merit-based standards.

“When ‘diversity goals’ exist for the Air Force Academy and West Point, standards become minimum expectations to meet before fully evaluating applicants,” Mr. Thibeau said. “Standards are no longer how the military selects and promotes the very best from society.”

He gave the example of Army Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc during the World War II invasion of Normandy to illustrate his point.

“Nothing else matters but the competence and character of the service members who sign up to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr. Thibeau said. “History is littered with examples of militaries whose consideration of political ideology precipitated a collapse of military professionalism — all of which served as a precursor to the collapse of their respective nations.”

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