By Adam Turner
While the Ukrainian state is fighting for its very life against the Russian juggernaut, it was reported that the U.S. military was conducting mandatory training on gender pronouns and coaching officers on when to offer soldiers gender transition surgery. All Army personnel, from soldiers to commanders and supervisors, are required to participate in the training by Sept. 30, 2022.
This rather controversial training will be accompanied by mandatory “climate literacy” training for all troops – now determined to be a dire national security threat. The Pentagon has issued a climate plan, with a separate plan and report to follow outlining its proposals for slashing carbon emissions. And apparently, as foreign wars present themselves, the potential for rising emissions from military activity is now publicly identified as an important concern of the U.S. government.
“Diversity training,” which can include topics like critical race theory (CRT) and a concern about “white privilege,” is also part of the curriculum. It is more than a little controversial. This training was previously halted based on the conclusion that executive branch agencies had spent millions of taxpayer dollars “‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.” But the Biden administration reversed this when it took office. Those who publicly object to CRT teaching, such as Space Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, have been fired.
The Defense Department also is reportedly considering hiring a private company to monitor the free speech of military personnel on social media. This sounds awfully close to government-funded censorship prohibited under the U.S. Constitution. At the very least, it sounds ripe for abuse with the potential to inappropriately target troops with diverse views.
If any of these programs strike you as distracting from the Pentagon’s mission, you may want to pause to first review DOD’s new effort to stamp out “extremism.” At the behest of Lloyd J. Austin III – a former Army general who now is secretary of defense – the Defense Department had an operational pause for one day to discuss extremism in the ranks with their service members. Of course, the military is no place for radical ideologies that advance hatred and discrimination. But it is unclear who is considered an “extremist,” particularly in light of recent actions taken by other senior government leaders.
In September, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum directing law enforcement resources, including domestic terrorism laws, to be used to target parents who are upset with school board policies regarding COVID-19, CRT and transgender policies. This led to significant scrutiny by Congress and watchdog organizations like mine concerned about the use of police state tactics to target what are perceived to be potential political opponents.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ Department of Homeland Security added fuel to the fire when DHS issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin highlighting “false and misleading narratives” as a top threat facing the nation. Key examples included COVID-related policy discussions and election-integrity concerns. As I wrote at the time, “the NTAS has the potential to be frightening assault on the First Amendment and the expression of legitimate protest and dissent.”
The Department of Defense should be laser-focused on building up and maintaining a strong and agile military to defend America’s interests abroad. Whether these initiatives are important or independently defensible is irrelevant if they do not ultimately advance the primary objective of military readiness. How these many controversial social goals advance this objective – and at what cost – is one that my organization, the Center to Advance Security in America, is trying to find out. As we get answers and learn how senior government officials are using taxpayer resources to advance these newfound priorities, we will report back.
Adam Turner is the Director of the Center to Advance Security in America.
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