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U.S. military chief denies armed forces going woke despite DEI, transgender trainings

Despite the Gen. Mark Milley's assertions, the military has gradually implemented and distributed regular power point trainings about “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) along with instructions about how soldiers and cadets need to accept transgender identity codes

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a press conference at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Feb. 14, 2023
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a press conference at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Feb. 14, 2023 | Shutterstock

June 9, 2023 9:07am

Updated: June 19, 2023 9:54am

Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said allegations the U.S. have gone “woke” armed forces are “grossly overexaggerated” during a recent CNN interview, a comment that some feel is inconsistent with current trainings that promote DEI and instruct soldiers to accept transgender identity.

Milley, who once said he was researching critical race theory (CRT) and “white rage” told CNN that the military is laser focused on “readiness,” a term soldiers use to describe being a continuous prepared stage of heightened training enabling them to go to war.

“Military readiness is the military’s capacity to engage in combat and fulfill assigned missions and tasks. Within the multiple branches of the military and the Department of Defense (DoD), military readiness is classified as ‘functional’ or ‘logistical,’ as preparation is required to cover both the physical and strategic components of missions,” according to an online report published by the Institute for Defense and Business.”

Readiness v. Wokeness

The Army general stressed “readiness” amid the current tension brewing in the Taiwan Strait with China and the continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine in a Monday evening interview with CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann.

But while Liebermann was inquiring about the U.S. forces, Milley pivoted by asserting he was confident the Ukrainian military forces “are very well prepared” and ready for what some believe is an imminent counteroffensive against Russia. 

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Ukraine is dealing with an "existential" threat while facing the Russian invasion and credited the U.S. armed forces with having supplied military resources and training to soldiers there.

“We’re about fighting and winning on battlefields, and we’re all about readiness. We’re all about readiness now and readiness in the future, modernization. I think the accusations of woke are grossly overexaggerated,” he said.

Milley, who raised concerns on the right after saying soldiers needed to be “situational understanding” of “white rage” so they could be alert for trends that led to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot previously argued it was insulting for outsiders to label the military of wokeness.

“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, non-commissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else, because we're studying some theories that are out there,” he was quoted as saying.

Wokeness and sinking military recruitment numbers

Despite the general’s assertions, the military has gradually implemented and distributed regular power point trainings about “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) along with instructions about how soldiers and cadets need to accept transgender identity codes.

U.S. military leadership under President Biden has continually come under fire by Republican lawmakers who have contradicted Milley, saying they fear the military is insufficiently prepared, a fact that some say is evidenced by the low recruitment numbers since the 46thcommander in chief took office in 2021.

Under Biden’s tenure, military recruitment has hit an all-time low. Last year, the military failed to meet recruitment goals to the extent that some lawmakers even questioned its sustainability without reimplementing a compulsory draft.

“This is the start of a long drought for military recruiting,” Ret. Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation told NBC last year, adding that “2022 is the year we question the sustainability of the all-volunteer force.”

Spoehr’s concerns have validity based on the numbers.

At the end of FY2022, the Army fell short its recruiting goal by 25%, a drop of 15,000 active-duty soldiers, and since then, FY2023 projections have been dim.

The Air Force and Army have estimated they will be 10,000 troops short, and the Navy expects to miss their mark by 6,000 sailors.

The Army

Milley is not alone in his denials that wokeism is harming the U.S. armed forces.

Last year, President Biden’s secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth said DEI programs were “important” while also denying that the branch was going “woke” during a national security event with other military leaders about the modernization of the armed forces.

“We get criticized, frankly, sometimes for being ‘woke,'” Wormuth said. “I'm not sure what ‘woke’ means. I think ‘woke’ means a lot of different things to different people.”

“But, first of all, if ‘woke’ means we are not focused on warfighting, we are not focused on readiness, that doesn’t reflect what I see at installations all around the country or overseas when I go and visit,” she insisted.

“I do think we do have a wide range of soldiers in our Army, and we've got to make them all feel included, and that’s why a lot of our diversity, equity and inclusion programs are important."

In February, two Republican lawmakers said otherwise in a blistering statement.

“We continue to receive analysis of cherry-picked data that is not giving us the full picture of why the Army is seeing historically low recruitment and retention rates,” said Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida who is also the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on readiness.

“Right now, it should be the shared goal of Congress, our military leaders, and the Biden administration to get to the bottom of this crisis so we can ensure our military is ready for any threat our nation faces.

Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana said woke indoctrination has in fact harmed recruitment because it has stained the military as a political institution, which is inconsistent with military values.

“Wokeness at the Defense Department has harmed recruitment, retention and morale, wasted service members’ time and taxpayer’s dollars, and undermined the apolitical character of the military which is a major threat to democracy and the American way of life,” Banks said in a statement.

The Navy

The Navy recently came under fire for using drag queens in official recruiting materials, sparking deep concerns with Republican lawmakers that wokeness was consuming and dominating the focus of America’s armed forces.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama led the charge on the issue, complaining that wokeism would not appeal to the mindset of those young people who are interested in contributing to America’s fighting forces.

The Republican senator said flat out the military “was on the decline,” and made his point in a May 4, 2023 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed.

“What we’re doing right now isn’t working,” he wrote. “the military is having a Bud Light moment.

“My concern is that our new national obsession with sexuality, race and gender is focused on self rather than on purpose, ability or service. I spent 40 years recruiting young men to play football. What the Navy is doing isn't a good recruiting strategy…

“The Biden administration and its allies in Congress seem determined to turn the Pentagon into a five-sided faculty lounge whose purpose is left-wing social engineering,” the senator wrote.

The Air Force

While the Army and Navy have faced their own challenges, some have expressed concerns the Air Force is no longer aiming high and instead targeting a political agenda in its trainings.

Last year, concerns were raised when Fox News Digital revealed the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado faced criticism after Fox News Digital reported that a diversity training instructed cadets to use words that “include all genders” and should abstain from using household words like “mom” and “dad.”

The slide presentation titled, “Diversity & Inclusion: What it is, why we care, & what we can do,” instructed cadets to engage in “person-centered” and gender-neutral terminology when referencing individuals.

“Some families are headed by single parents, grandparents, foster parents, two moms, two dads, etc.: consider ‘parent or caregiver’ instead of ‘mom and dad,’” the presentation advised.

“Use words that include all genders​: ‘Folks’ or ‘Y’all’ instead of ‘guys’; ‘partner’ vs. ‘boyfriend or girlfriend.’"

An Air Force Academy spokesperson previously told Fox News Digital that the diversity training will help improve the cadets' "warfighting effectiveness.”

“Not ‘Colorblind’ or ‘I don’t see color,’ but Color Conscious,” it adds. “We see Color/Patterns AND VALUE people for their uniqueness.”

That presentation was provided to Fox News by U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida, a former Afghan war veteran and Green Beret.

“It's been a tradition in the military to get letters from mom and dad or your boyfriend and girlfriend for as long as there's been a military,” Rep. Waltz told Fox News.

“Now we're instructing every cadet entering the Air Force to not say ‘mom’ and ‘dad,’ to not say ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend,’ and this kind of drive towards gender neutrality,” he said. “I think the Air Force should be worried about the macro aggressions against America that are happening all over the world.”

Last year, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also complained that the “sickness” of wokeism had “taken hold in the Air Force,” in a Sept. 28, 2022 Fox News Op-Ed, in which he complained his own alma mater of West Point created a fellowship program that excluded biological males and only accepted women and transgendered individuals.

“This smut is nothing more than repackaged Marxist dogma, an ideology that proposes race, gender, and other arbitrary characteristics must determine relationships between people, even between soldiers. It proposes racism is, supposedly, still concealed within the fabric of America’s military institutions. Even our Marxists foes reject this dogma for the sake of their own military readiness,” Pompeo wrote.

But the U.S. Air Force Academy has not been shy about promoting its DEI policies to the public.

In a press release published online last year, the school boasted that “scores of Air Force Academy cadets are ramping up Defense Department advancement in promoting respect across the military with the Cadet Wing Diversity and Inclusion Program.”

The release said 82 cadets were championing DEI and bragged that the cadet in charge of the program was of Hispanic ethnicity.

The release also illuminated that the Academy had created a “Transgender Working Group” to “assist” senior officials and commanders at the base address their concerns about the policy.

That working group has cadet representatives from the Spectrum Club, a network for gay, lesbian and bisexual cadets along with others who are questioning their sexual identity.

“We’re committed to supporting transgender Airmen and cadets,” said Col. Joseph Looney.