AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
In the coming weeks, Congress is set to pass the largest defense spending bill in history – somewhere in the neighborhood of $850 billion. But with every branch of the military struggling to meet recruiting quotas, adversaries like China and Russia growing more aggressive, and the Biden administration apparently more focused on wokeness than warfighting, Americans have good reason to be concerned about the direction and readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Both the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year call for tens of billions more in spending than President Joe Biden asked for – much of which is to offset the effect of inflation on military budgets. Notably, both Democrats and Republicans in the House also rejected President Joe Biden’s plan to decommission 24 Navy ships as well as cuts to certain research and development projects, a clear bipartisan rebuke of the President’s defense agenda.
Nonetheless, the House and Senate versions of the NDAA were still written primarily by congressional Democrats, and accordingly contain a number of “woke” provisions that have little to do with military readiness. The House bill earmarks money for NATO to support “climate resilience” – something that does nothing to counter the rising threat from Russia or China. The bill also prioritizes the procurement of electric vehicles for the military, directs the Department of Defense to research plant-based proteins, and creates a pilot program to train foreign militaries on how to recruit women – all provisions that aren’t doing anything to bolster U.S. readiness to face down foreign threats or address the drastic shortfalls in recruiting.
At the same time, military leadership at the Pentagon has fully embraced the woke agenda, effectively re-defining military service according to the tenets of “social justice” and identity politics. In June, for example, the Marine Corps observed “Pride Month” by posting an image of a Marine combat helmet with six 5.56 mm NATO rounds in the brim, all painted in the colors of the LGBTQ rainbow “Pride flag.” The image itself (minus the rainbow coloring) is deeply associated with the Vietnam War and the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket, which takes a hard and critical look at U.S. involvement in the war. To both active duty Marines and veterans, the post came across as tone deaf and offensive. As one Twitter user and self-identified former Marine put it: “All Marines are green…No colors. No preferences. No special treatment or celebration of any sub-group or category. Just Marines. Leave it at that. Keep social experiments, trendy buzz words, and politics out of it!”
As if this woke messaging wasn’t enough to dampen morale and deter many Americans from military service entirely, the Biden administration has also moved forward with plans to punish and discharge service members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine – even as Biden himself has contracted COVID despite receiving both doses of the vaccine and two booster shots. This policy has hit American reserve forces particularly hard; to date, more than 40,000 National Guard service members and 22,000 Army reservists are being denied military benefits for refusing the vaccine. Additionally, every one of these service members who requested a religious exemption has been rejected.
All of these service members are, in accordance with military standards, young and in good physical shape – in other words, the group of people least at risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. Jonathan Hullihan, the lead attorney for Texas for County Citizens Defending Freedom, has blasted the mandate, asserting that “we are losing many of our best warriors with real combat and leadership experience… If military leadership fails to portray a candid and accurate threat to the Biden Administration that these actions directly threaten the United States National Security, Congress must intervene.” Thus far, however, Congress has failed to act.
Even if the Biden administration allows these warriors to remain in uniform, there’s no longer a guarantee that America will have the weapons necessary to arm them. Recently, Biden promised that he would provide Ukraine weapons and materiel for “as long as it takes” to defeat Russia. As a result, the U.S. military’s stockpile of weapons, specifically Javelin and Stinger anti-tank missiles, is critically low. Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman, one of the largest American weapons suppliers, has warned that American stockpiles are not prepared for a drawn-out conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Due to mixed signals from the administration about the U.S. commitment to Ukraine, many military contractors are “guessing” what weapons they will be asked to provide.
Combined with a series of foreign policy debacles – chief among them the disastrous evacuation from Afghanistan – Americans would be forgiven for fearing that the military may be at its most vulnerable state in decades. This time, however, it is not a foreign military but internal politics and woke policies at the highest levels of government that are threatening American national security. For our military to recover, it will need new leaders and a renewed focus on its critical mission – one that doesn’t involve rainbow bullets.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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