Army secretary urges officers to stay out of ‘culture wars’

Christine Wormuth
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, testifies before a Senate Armed Services committee hearing to examine the posture of the Department of the Army in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program, Thursday, May 5, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Army’s top civilian is urging service leaders to stay out of the “culture wars” less than a month after it was revealed that the Army started an investigation into a top commander for sparing with conservative news hosts on social media. 

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Monday that the service “absolutely” wants its general officers present on social media but said they should avoid getting drawn into “the inflammatory kind of environment that, frankly, Twitter really lends itself to.”  

“The key for senior leaders in an environment that is as politicized, unfortunately, as the one we’re all operating in is to exercise good judgement,” Wormuth said during a press conference at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C. 

“One of the things I think that’s most important to [Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville] and I is keeping the Army apolitical and keeping it out of the culture wars,” she added.  

Wormuth’s reasoning for the approach was tied to the fact that only a small fraction of young Americans are interested in serving, making it necessary for the Army “to be able to have a broad appeal” to reach recruitment goals.  

“When only 9 percent of kids are interested in serving, we have got to make sure that we are careful about not alienating wide swaths of the American public to the Army,” she said. 

Her comments follow a new Army inspector general investigation into Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe for alleged misconduct on social media after he faced off against a couple of Fox News hosts. 

Donahoe, the former commanding general of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., had his July retirement put on pause while the service finishes the investigation, the Army Times first reported on Sept. 19.  

Donahoe was among a group of top military leaders who pushed back against comments that Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson made in March 2021 in which he said the Biden administration was “feminizing” the Army because of efforts to attract more women to join the military and uniform policy changes. 

Fox host Laura Ingraham also attacked Donahoe last July over his grappling online with a veteran who was arguing against the military’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.  

The Army inspector general report states that Donahoe’s public Twitter fights brought too much negative attention to the service, Task & Purpose reported earlier this month. 

“While potentially admirable, [Donahoe’s] post brought a measurable amount of negative publicity to the Army, enough that [the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs] warned [the Secretary of the Army] of the fallout,” the investigators wrote, as reported by Task & Purpose.  

Asked on Monday what she would say to service members who are women or people of color who now feel that the Army doesn’t have their backs due to the response to Donahoe, Wormuth said she does not want any soldier to feel alienated. 

“We always want to have the backs of our soldiers,” Wormuth added. “I think there are ways to do that that are more effective than others. … I think there is absolutely a way to stand up for our soldiers and have their back, but, again, I think the key really is tone and looking at your audience.”  

She also pushed back against the idea that the Army is “woke,” a term that conservative lawmakers and media personalities have accused the U.S. military of becoming due to the administration’s recently implemented diversity and inclusion rules.  

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

Tags Army Christine Wormuth Christine Wormuth Fox News James McConville James McConville Laura Ingraham Patrick Donahoe Tucker Carlson

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