AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
After years of conservatives pointing out how wokeness in the armed forces is driving down morale and recruitment numbers, Biden’s top military brass is now claiming that it is actually Republican lawmakers’ criticisms of woke policies that are to blame for declining enlistment and the perception that the military is politicized.
In an interview with military news site Task & Purpose earlier this month, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth worried that “military leaders are sort of dragged into spaces that have been politicized,” creating “this perception that they’re political when they really aren’t.”
“We are a ready Army, not a ‘woke’ Army,” Wormuth continued. “That’s something, frankly, the chief [Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville] and I said throughout posture season in hearings, in meetings with members of Congress.”
Wormuth’s comments suggest she believes there is no evidence that military leadership promotes a far-left political agenda. However, less than a year earlier, Wormuth herself defended so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) policies – a hallmark of left-wing ideology.
In one example of an Army DEI PowerPoint presentation first reported by Fox News last year, a slide tells soldiers they should stop using words like “mom and dad” or “boyfriend and girlfriend.” Instead, they should opt for gender-neutral terms like “folks or Y’all.” Hundreds of soldiers have complained that other military DEI programs criticize conservative organizations and suggest white people are “inherently racist.”
In another widely-reported instance of military wokeness last year, the Marine Corps announced they were considering banning recruits from using “sir” or “ma’am” to avoid “misgendering” instructors. Last June, a Freedom of Information Act request also revealed that West Point instructors were teaching cadets Critical Race Theory and telling them that “whiteness” connotes “race privilege.”
Prior to Republicans re-taking the House last fall, congressional Democrats also allocated millions of dollars in the military’s budget to combat alleged “extremism” in the ranks. According to Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), “For every documented case of extremism in the military, our military spent a whopping 58,000 hours in training on extremism.”
Dozens of other such examples, from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley’s infamous statement that he “wants to understand white rage” to the Navy including Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist on its “recommended reading list” leave Wormuth’s insistence that the military is “ready” but not “woke” looking increasingly dubious.
This rise in wokeness has corresponded with a sharp decline in military recruitment and retention. The Army missed its recruiting goal for the second year in a row in 2022, falling more than 15,000 enlistees short of their quota. The Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard have all seen similar struggles.
Military leaders have insisted that this shortfall is not a result of woke policies, pointing to a Department of Defense survey of young Americans released last August which found “the possibility of physical injury/death,” “possibility of PTSD or other emotional/psychological issues,” and “leaving family and friends” as the top three reasons they would not consider joining the military.
However, the question asking people why they would not consider joining the military did not include “wokeness” or “politicization” as an option for respondents to select. It also seems evident that things like the fear of injury or death and leaving family and friends have always been a top reason why young people don’t consider joining the military – thus failing entirely to explain the sudden decline in enlistment.
Unsurprisingly, Wormuth and other top military leaders have faced a flurry of criticism from Republican lawmakers in recent months over the perceived politicization of the military and their failure to acknowledge how that may be affecting the readiness of America’s armed forces. In May, a group of 30 House Republicans sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warning about “the growing trend of left-wing extremism and politicization in our armed forces.”
House Republicans have also begun to deliver on their midterm campaign promise of holding military leadership accountable for infusing leftism into military teachings and training. Last week, House Republicans passed a series of amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act aimed at rooting out wokeness in the military. One such amendment, from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), bars funding for drag events at military facilities after numerous reports of drag shows and “drag queen story hours” on military bases ignited serious backlash.
Any wins House Republicans can get on this front will be a good start in restoring the American military to its proper state of readiness. But without a change in leadership – namely, a change in Commander-in-Chief – efforts to de-wokeify the military will likely remain incomplete.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.