Defense

Gaetz, Austin spar over wokeism, hypersonic competition and ‘blown calls’ by the Pentagon

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) got into a heated exchange on Tuesday over allegations the military is pushing wokeism and socialism, along with what the Florida congressman called recent “blown calls” by the Pentagon. 

Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the Pentagon’s proposed $773 budget for fiscal 2023. 

In his questioning, Gaetz referred to an article published in the conservative Washington Free Beacon in February that reported that economist Thomas Piketty, whose work focuses on economic inequality, would give a lecture at the institution about ”the case for global justice and democratic socialism” to combat China.

Austin said he was unaware of the lecture Gaetz was talking about, prompting Gaetz to retort that it was “widely reported.” The Florida Republican then asked the Pentagon chief if he agreed that socialism was not an effective way to combat China. 

Gaetz then interrupted as Austin was responding, prompting the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), to scold Gaetz.

Austin tried to seek clarity on the question, but then Gaetz pivoted to say that he noticed the U.S. has been “blowing a lot of calls lately” on matters of strategy. 

Gaetz noted that the U.S. failed in its assessments that Afghanistan’s government could hold power for months once Washington withdrew forces and that Russia would quickly prevail in Ukraine if it invaded. 

“So, I guess I’m wondering, what in the $773 billion that you’re requesting today is going to help you make assessments that are accurate in the face of so many blown calls?” Gaetz asked. 

Austin said he would let the budget proposal speak for itself, before Gaetz said Washington was “behind” in hypersonic weapons and had “failed to deter Russia” from invading Ukraine.

“What do you mean we’re behind in hypersonics?” Austin yelled. “How do you make that assessment?”

The Florida Republican responded that the U.S. was behind China and North Korea in hypersonic weapons and other cutting-edge capabilities.  

“So, while everyone else is in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun training,” Gaetz said.

“This is the most critical, the most combat-critical force in the world. It has been, and it will be so going forward,” Austin replied.

“The fact that you’re embarrassed by your country?” he continued, prompting Gaetz to accuse Austin of conflating his failures with those of service members.

“You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days. You said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months. You totally blew those calls,” Gaetz said. “And maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism.”

“Has it occurred to you has Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done?” Austin replied sharply. “And what our allies have done?”

“But that was baked into your flawed assessment,” Gaetz retorted.

“I saw that the Obama administration tried to destroy our military by starving it of resources, and it seems like the Biden administration is trying to destroy our military by trying to force-feed it wokeism,” he added before yielding his time. 

Tags Adam Smith Afghanistan withdrawl hypersonic missiles Lloyd Austin Lloyd Austin Mark Milley Matt Gaetz Matt Gaetz Russia-Ukraine war socialism Thomas Piketty Thomas Pikkety wokeism

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video