National Security & Defense

Defense Secretary Dismisses Diversity-Drive Criticisms, Says Military Will Never Be ‘Soft’

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin hands out diplomas to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., May 22, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

During an exclusive Memorial Day interview with CNN Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dismissed criticisms of the latest drive to promote diversity in the military, asserting that the armed forces will never be “soft.”

He suggested that such rhetoric may even play into the interests of America’s international challengers like China and Russia, insisting that those regimes “would like to capitalize on talking points like that.”

“I will not lose one minute of sleep about what the Chinese leadership is saying or what [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin is saying. What I will focus on, and what I am focused on, is the defense of this nation, and making sure that we have what’s needed to be successful,” the defense secretary remarked.

Austin discounted allegations that the U.S. military’s diversity-and-inclusion recruiting initiatives will diminish American defenses and the strength of its position on the world stage.

He added that the United States boasts the “best military in the world today” because of the people who “populate our ranks,” not merely because of its technological advancements and infrastructure.

“I think we’re doing a great job in terms of recruiting the right kinds of people, providing access to people from every corner, every walk of life in this country. As long as you’re fit and you can qualify, there’s a place for you on this team,” Austin stated.

The secretary’s comments come amid criticism from some Republican lawmakers who have expressed concerns about the military’s adoption of progressive ideology, arguing that it weakens America’s fighting force at the expense of our national security.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army launched a recruiting ad campaign featuring the stories of soldiers with unique identity backgrounds. The branch admitted in a press release that the videos represented a “distinct departure from previous Army campaigns,” transforming “what was once a one-dimensional view of Army service into something more relatable.” One such ad showed the testimony of Corporal Emma Malonelord, who said she was raised by lesbian parents and “marched for equality.”

Prominent Republican legislators slammed the ad campaign, framing it as counterproductive and detrimental to the integrity and efficacy of the military.

“Holy crap, perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea,” Senator Ted Cruz tweeted.

Austin affirmed during the interview that a diverse U.S. military “must be a part of who we are.”

“We represent the United States of America,” he said. “We ought to look like America and not only in the ranks, but our leadership should look like America.”

Some Republican members of Congress have objected to the military’s moving in a more politicized trajectory. Senator Tom Cotton and Representative Dan Crenshaw, both veterans, recently released a whistleblower page for active service members to report “woke ideology” in the military. Through the form, men and women in uniform can submit anonymous complaints regarding “woke” trainings, programming, or memoranda, which Cotton and Crenshaw will expose to the public.

“For too long, progressive Pentagon staffers have been calling the shots for our warfighters, and spineless military commanders have let it happen. Now we are going to expose you,” Crenshaw tweeted last week.

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