Opinion by Tom Cotton, Ashley Hinson, Fox News, 12/28/22
The U.S. military should be the ultimate meritocracy – nothing matters on the battlefield other than training, leadership, and the trust between fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. Unfortunately, recent Democrat administrations – and Joe Biden’s is no exception – have made race, gender, and controversial political teachings an integral part of military training and values, from the Pentagon to our service academies.
But unlike college campuses, elite boardrooms, and Hollywood movies, social experimentation in the military has life and death consequences, not to mention repercussions for troop morale and recruitment. That’s incredibly dangerous, especially as we face rising threats from China, Russia, and other global adversaries.
A recent Reagan National Defense Survey found that the number of Americans with a “great deal” of confidence in the military has plummeted from 70 percent in 2018, to 45 percent now. The largest decline in trust comes among Republicans, whose strong confidence fell from 87 percent to 53 percent – a disturbing 34 percent drop.
This has real world consequences for recruitment, especially since young conservatives are far more likely to serve in the military than their liberal counterparts. Last year, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard all missed their recruitment goals by significant margins. This year, the recruitment crisis has continued with the Army expected to miss its recruitment objective by as many as 30,000 soldiers. The Department of Defense states in its own personnel and readiness update that the failures in recruitment can partly be attributed to so-called “social unrest.”
A similar story is unfolding at our military academies with the number of applications last year tumbling by 12 percent at West Point, over 20 percent at both Annapolis and the U.S. Air Force Academy, and by 25 percent at the Virginia Military Institute. During the same period, the number of college applicants nationwide rose over 20 percent.
The Biden administration’s politicization of the armed forces has contributed to this disturbing collapse in morale.
Soon after Joe Biden became president, the Pentagon ordered an unprecedented military-wide “stand down” of service members to root out right wing domestic extremists, wasting 5.8 million man hours. The Pentagon then hired Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officers at salaries as high as $200,000. For the past two years, the Department of Defense rigidly enforced vaccine requirements, cutting off tens of thousands of service members from benefits, even when many have legitimate objections and are young, healthy adults.
The Pentagon’s woke obsessions could have severe effects on military preparedness and readiness. The Navy – which published a reading list that included books by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi – released a report advocating for less testing for officers in order to boost minority representation. The Army similarly attempted to lower fitness standards in order to increase the number of women in combat. By placing political goals ahead of troop training standards, Pentagon bureaucrats are risking soldiers’ very lives.
In recent years, the academies have also taught radical doctrines like Critical Race Theory under the label of “diversity and inclusion.” The Air Force Academy established a special “Diversity and Inclusion reading room” that it described as a “safe space” for America’s young warriors. It also created an organization of hand-picked cadets – identified by a purple braid on their dress uniform—to spread these controversial ideals in the ranks. At West Point, cadets can now minor in “Diversity and Inclusion Studies” alongside cadets studying serious subjects like Grand Strategy, Aeronautical Engineering, and Nuclear Science.
And earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force Academy had cadets participate in a seminar that instructs them against using the word “terrorist” and to avoid gender specific phrases. When we’re training cadets how not to offend terrorists rather than how to destroy them, we need to seriously review our priorities. Not only do these politically correct lessons alienate a large percentage of cadets and potential recruits, but they also take time away from more important training that ensures our success on the battlefield.
When Republicans take control of Congress next year, we must return the military’s focus to its core mission. We should start by firing every last Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer on the Department of Defense’s payroll. All unnecessary and onerous administrative training, especially so-called “extremism” trainings, should be eliminated.
We must also narrow the scope of education at war colleges and service academies to fighting and winning wars – all else can be taught and learned elsewhere. Finally, we should uphold – not erode – training standards for all services.
The U.S. military is a sacred and honorable institution. It protects us every single day from threats abroad – and in return, we must protect it from divisive politics at home.
Republican Ashley Hinson represents Iowa’s 1st congressional district.