Several of the military officers whose promotions are held up due to a senator’s fight with the Pentagon have supported left-wing cultural stances and diversity initiatives, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of social media posts, Pentagon materials and public footage.
Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has single-handedly blocked numerous officers’ confirmations in protest of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s directive that the military fund out-of-state travel for female troops seeking abortions, initiating a game of chicken between Tuberville and the Pentagon that shows no sign of stopping. Yet several of the candidates in line for promotion have a history of making political statements and backed or spearheaded internal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives related to race and sexuality, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of publicly available information.
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“Comments by even a handful of the Biden Pentagon’s general officer nominees are instructive as to defense policy, as opposed to mere talking points,” William Thibeau, director of the American Military Project at the Center for the American Way of Life, explained to the DCNF.
“You win on what you focus on. In other words, what the commander talks about typically becomes the focus for the unit writ large,” he said.
For example, Tuberville’s hold applies to Air Force Gen. Charles. Q. Brown, who was recently nominated to replace Gen. Mark Milley as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to NBC News. Brown gained notoriety when he made a rare public statement on race in the midst of nationwide rioting and protests following George Floyd’s murder in 2020.
In August, Brown ordered the Air Force’s recruiting wing to cultivate an applicant pool that meets racial and gender percentage quotas, a memo shows. The order was meant to ultimately increase diversity in the Air Force itself.
“I hire for diversity,” he told Air and Space Forces Magazine in 2020.
Additionally, with Brown as chief of staff, the Air Force commissioned a racial disparity review focusing on African-Americans, along with a second study of disparities between people of other ethnicities/gender identities and white, heterosexual males, according to an interview with U.S. News.
“The best way to fix what might be perceived as a problem is to do the analysis and go, ‘We’ve got some improvement to do.’ And part of that is to really take a look at areas of how we do discipline, how we do career development and how we do promotion,” Brown told the outlet.
The Secretary of Defense also nominated Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Cain for promotion to Major General in March, shortly after Tuberville announced his hold.
As the top officer at Eglin Air Force Base in 2020, Cain issued a “unity message” to Air Force peers at other installations, encouraging them to engage their teams in conversation about the “tragedy in Minneapolis,” referring to George Floyd’s death in the summer of 2020, “the unrest and pain in our country” that followed “and what all of this means for our lives and our service” as he had done with subordinate commanders at Eglin. Cain promoted tools he developed alongside Cecil Williams, the DEI director for Eglin, meant to facilitate those conversations.
“Some of the biases we carry with us, whether conscious or not, are a weakness that it’s time to change,” Cain said.
Cain oversaw the institution of a DEI office at Eglin, one of the first in the Air Force, calling it his “most significant long-standing accomplishment” in a June 2022 exit interview.
“Leaders must view the accomplishment of [diversity and inclusion] goals and objectives as an important part of their responsibilities,” states the office’s Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan for 2021 – 2026, which Cain personally approved.
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The office conducts activities related to “affirmative employment” and “inclusionary program management,” according to the website.
“It’s time to have a conversation,” he said in a video with Williams, referencing conversations he’s had directly with troops. “Everyone on our team is coming from a different place, coming with a different perspective, and some people are coming with a bias whether it’s a conscious bias or not.”
Williams highlighted the importance of unconscious bias training, forums and times to listen to servicemembers “rant” and express their perspectives, thanking Cain for his leadership in these areas. Cain recently assumed command of the Air Force Research Laboratory, where he will be responsible for managing a research and development budget totaling $6 billion, according to a press release.
In the Army, Brig. Gen. Ronald Ragin has been waiting on his promotion to Major General and assignment as commanding general for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe-Africa since February.
Speaking to ROTC cadets at a university panel discussion on “why representation matters” about the the Army’s Project Inclusion diversity initiative, Ragin said, “We’re gonna work hard and we’re gonna continue to strive to make sure that we’re the most diverse force in the Army, and that will allow us to dominate and win on future battlefields.”
Project Inclusion involved listening sessions, a review of the military justice system and removal of photos from promotion boards, according to a news release.
Ragin also initiated “Mentorship Rucks” that bring together a “vastly cultural and gender-diverse group” of junior officers; on an April 1 ruck, he reiterated his support of seeing greater gender, cultural, and racial diversity among the Army’s ranks, according to a press release.
Space Force Brig. Gen. Jody Merritt served as a panelist for an industry group DEI symposium in 2021, according to a LinkedIn post. She is up for promotion to Maj. Gen as of February, according to a statement.
She also spoke under personal social media accounts about her political standings, including a Jan. 26 tweet that appeared to exhort followers to vote for stricter gun control measures. Merritt promoted a video addressing “what we’re doing in the Air Force to address the concerns of underrepresentation” of women in the service in a social media post.
“By recognizing the value of women’s participation and actively promoting their involvement, we unlock a transformative force that can reshape the world, one conflict at a time,” she wrote.
Navy Vice Adm. Jeffrey Hughes was put forward to reappointment to the same officer grade and assignment as deputy chief of staff for Capability Development, Supreme Allied Command Transformation, in May. As commander of Navy Recruiting Command, Hughes gave opening remarks at the command’s first Diversity Awareness Day in 2016, according to a media release. In 2022, as deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting development, Hughes participated in the Naval Information Force‘s inaugural DEI Summit where he emphasized the pillars of DEI throughout the force, a press release shows.
“It is incredibly important that we reflect the values that we value, but also incredibly important that we serve as an exemplar to the rest of the nation and to the rest of the world,” Hughes said. “We need exceptional talent to get after these incredible vexing strategic, operational, tactical problems and we need this exceptional talent to plan and execute complex and vital missions, period.”
And, at the Navy’s first-ever Naval Surface Force Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Symposium in April 2022, Rear Adm. Brendan McLane headlined the event with a plea for participants to spread the word of diversity, according to a press release.
“You don’t always have to agree with different perspectives, but accepting them and moving on is progress,” he said.
McLane stands to advance to the rank of Vice Adm. and assume command of Naval Surface Forces and Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet as of April.
“This is just like maintenance; it needs to be done 100% of the time,” he added.
Vice Adm. Craig Clapperton, who was nominated for reappointment and assignment as commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, addressed a Navy LGBT celebration in 2018, according to a Navy news release. The number of promotions Tuberville is holding up has reached 249 and continues to grow, the latest Senate calendar dated June 26 shows. One option to break the hold is to go through each nomination one by one, but that process is time consuming and widely seen as untenable, according to Politico.
Explaining his rationale behind the hold, Tuberville tied the abortion travel policy to a wider “culture war,” with Democrats and accused the Biden administration of seeking to “inject politics” into the military in an April editorial.
“Thanks to the Biden administration’s woke appointees, we’ve seen the worst drop in recruitment in 50 years,” Tuberville wrote.
Each nominee’s military command has not responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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