That question should answer itself. But, in the current environment, that answer has become more and more obscure. The proliferation of top-down, politically motivated directives from the Biden administration detracts from military preparedness and saps the ardor and unity from members of our military. The effects can be seen in the current shortfalls in recruiting and the sharp drop in public confidence in the military.
On March 30, 2023, the National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness, which was convened by the Heritage Foundation, issued a 48-page report outlining how activities unrelated to military readiness are impeding readiness. The report identifies eight policies that have malign effects and recommends corrective measures that can largely be summarized as “Just stop it.”
The report defines politicization as “the imposition of policies, programs, and messaging designed for political, not military reasons.” It observes that politicization “risks dividing groups into factions while detracting time, resources, and focus on the primary mission.” That mission is to defend the United States by “deter[ring] and fight[ing] wars.” The report explains, “A military that is distracted from combat readiness and fails to train and prepare adequately for combat because of requirements associated with progressive social justice programs or others outside the military’s set of missions will be unprepared to fight in conflict.”
The report’s first two policies involve the demand that military members undergo diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training and the related growth in the DEI bureaucracy. The Defense Department’s DEI and Accessibility Strategic Plan calls for the protection of individuals based on, among other things, their sexual preferences and “hidden disabilities,” even though, as Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), a former Special Forces soldier, has noted, enemy bullets don’t distinguish on that basis. More to the point, the military is a meritocracy, the report explains: “[T]he concept of ‘equity’—a push for equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity—contradicts the nation’s most successful meritocracy, with rank and benefits bestowed on those who distinguish themselves by extraordinary performance—no matter what their race, gender, ethnicity, or other personal characteristic.” And, rather than being inclusive, the report contends, “the military is, by design, exclusionary to ensure its readiness.”
The Heritage Foundation’s report discusses the “blatant support of partisan purposes within the DOD.” This include support for abortion, “Pride” events, and drag queen shows. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has blocked 160 promotions in response to the announcement from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that the DOD would fund military leave and travel for “non-covered reproductive health care,” like abortions. Tuberville explained, “I informed Secretary Austin that if he tried to turn the DoD into an abortion travel agency, I would place a hold on all civilian, flag, and general officer nominees.”
The report also discusses the fruitless search for extremists and racists in the ranks, the lowering of physical standards, and the imposition of vaccine mandates. In one noteworthy move, the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute published a study guide that said, “Nowadays instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.” Silly me, I thought extremism in the defense of liberty was laudable.
The vaccine mandates have been legislatively rescinded, but they too suffer from incoherence. The report notes that “[A]llowing members who are HIV positive, are suffering from gender dysphoria, or failing to meet long-standing combat standards while simultaneously discharging people without a COVID-19 vaccine demonstrates the political nature of these decisions while further engendering mistrust.”
The military’s concern with climate change is likewise ill-conceived. We are learning the limits of electric vehicles here in the United States, where EV chargers are available but inconsistently distributed. Nonetheless, the Army Climate Strategy proposes “field[ing] a 100 percent zero-emission nontactical vehicle fleet by 2027.”
As the report concludes, “All Americans share the common interest in a strong U.S. military and should be united in reducing obstacles that thwart the highest levels of readiness.”
Our leaders should stop imposing obstacles to readiness so that our military can do its job.