Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) said the Biden administration was “hellbent” on politicizing the military and slammed the under secretaries for the Navy, Air Force and Army for defending an “obsession with this equity agenda.”
“The offspring of identity politics, which is incredibly divisive, has now made its way through DEI trainings in these branches,” Schmitt said. “It is naive to believe this is not divisive among recruits or people in the military.”
Under Secretary of the Navy Erik Raven responded at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on recruitment challenges, saying diverse teams were essential for “warfighting capability.” Acting Under Secretary of the Air Force Kristyn Jones said diversity and equity also improves retention rates.
“We’re not looking at any quotas,” she said. “But we are looking for where there are barriers that are impacting certain parts of our population in different ways. … For example, barriers we had with women who were choosing to leave our service because of some of the policies we had.”
Besides the Marine Corps and the Space Force, every military branch is struggling to meet its recruitment target goals, which have already been shrunk to meet the lower demand.
In the last fiscal year, the Army was 15,000 recruits short of a 60,000 goal, while both the Navy and the Air Force barely met targets for active duty personnel.
The Pentagon has pointed to various challenges, including a declining interest for military service among the youngest generation of Americans and a competitive labor market. Many Americans are also not eligible for service based on health requirements or prior criminal misconduct.
The Defense Department has not identified DEI training or particular policies under GOP scrutiny as a barrier to recruitment, and officials have said more diversity in the military helps tackle problems and come up with unique solutions.
Read more about the hearing in the full report at TheHill.com.