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Wicker: Solve military readiness by getting back to basics

Woke Focus Undermines Military Cohesion and Readiness

Eighty years ago, the Tuskegee Airmen made history as the first African-American combat pilots to execute overseas missions. They persevered through racial discrimination at home and in our military, helping to protect the free world during World War II. The armed forces were segregated then, but these pilots’ heroism paved the way for a transformation. Today, the U.S. military is the largest, most diverse engine of social mobility in the country.

Because of this progress, American servicemen of all backgrounds have been promoted based on their courage, character, and commitment – not their skin color. But this is being threatened by a left-wing woke agenda. It is mystifying, even disturbing, to see President Biden’s top political defense officials promote toxic social policies of equal outcome versus equal opportunity. Their agenda has harmed military readiness and alienated a large portion of potential military recruits.

The Biden Administration’s Liberal Social Agenda Distracts from Readiness

Even as we return to an age of great power conflict, military recruitment is suffering. By the end of the year, there will be 30,000 fewer active-duty soldiers than the day President Biden took the oath of office. Public trust in the military is also plummeting. The Reagan Institute found that under 50 percent of Americans trust the military, down from 70 percent a few years ago.

As Commander-in-Chief, President Biden’s most important job is leading our military in defense of the United States. But his Administration is making that job harder by focusing on liberal social goals.

For example, as part of an “extremism stand down day,” which used nearly 5.9 million man-hours across the service branches, the Navy issued training materials stating that conservative views of “marriage, abortion, and LGBTQ rights” are “not considered mainstream.” It sent many soldiers a message of hostility that they did not belong.

The new “diversity, equity, and inclusion” bureaucracy in the Pentagon has even made changes to the military promotion system. Now, candidates are evaluated, in part, on their demographic traits. This focus on “equity” rather than equal opportunity pits servicemembers against each other based on factors they cannot control. It saps ambition from our best and brightest, telling them they may or may not be promoted because of their race or gender.

And in the months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Secretary of Defense released a statement – without evidence – indicating the decision would harm readiness efforts. More troubling are recent indications that the Department is prepared to force commanders to choose between their commission and their conviction against facilitating an abortion.

Readiness Means Going Back to Basics

As the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will work to ensure the Department of Defense gets back to basics and prioritizes the values that made our military the most successful civil rights program in the world.

The Pentagon should reward hard work by keeping promotions merit-based. Armed Services Republicans will lead efforts to stop the use of Critical Race Theory, including at our service academies. And we will combat Pentagon efforts to use taxpayer funds for abortion.

In our modern fight against threats to our security, we need to keep our priorities straight. The mission of the U.S. military is to deter – and win – real wars, not wage culture wars.

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