By: Tommy Tuberville – wsj.com – May 4, 2023
Contrast that with China’s military surge. The Pentagon’s most recent China Military Power report shows that China’s army, navy and space assets are accelerating at a pace one American four-star admiral called “breathtaking.” China already has the largest navy in the world and it’s getting larger. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s office reports that China’s air force is “rapidly catching up to Western air forces.”
It gets worse. The U.S. military now faces an unprecedented crisis of recruitment. In the 50-year history of the all-volunteer force, the services have never missed their recruitment goals—until last year. The Army fell 15,000 recruits short of its goal last year—that’s an entire division. This is in addition to the 8,000 enlisted service members who were kicked out because they didn’t comply with President Biden’s vaccine mandate. Reports show this year’s recruiting may be even worse, with four of the six military branches on track to miss their recruitment goals.
Late last month the Navy posted a video of Lt. j.g. Audrey Knutson, a legal-assistance officer who describes herself as “nonbinary”—meaning neither male nor female—speaking about her deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. Lt. Knutson boasted that the highlight of her first deployment—also the $13 billion vessel’s first deployment—was reading a poem to the entire ship “during an LGBTQ spoken-word night.” Not surprisingly, the video went viral. Along the same lines, on Tuesday it was reported that the Navy tapped another self-described nonbinary sailor to become the Navy’s first “Digital Ambassador.”
As I told the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Michael Gilday, in a Senate hearing last month, I respect everyone who serves this country. My issue isn’t a sailor’s sexual orientation or gender. 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.
At the hearing, Adm. Gilday doubled down, celebrating the Navy’s floating LGBT poetry slams. And he wonders why he’ll miss his recruiting goals this year.
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. Mr. Austin’s first act in office was to mandate so-called anti-extremism training. That cost the military 4 million man hours—time that would have been far better spent on, among other things, preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Yet at Tuesday’s hearing, Democratic senators seemed utterly uninterested in the crisis that is hiding in plain sight. Instead, they wanted to talk about me.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono spent their time at the hearing attacking me for demanding that every senior military nomination receive a separate vote in the Senate. Until now they have been rubber-stamped in batches. Some Democrats think voting individually on 200 nominations presents a grave national-security problem.
In a military of 2 million, and boasting 650 general officers, slowing down the process doesn’t put our national security at risk. None of these important jobs will go unfilled as a result of the hold I imposed in February on unanimous-consent confirmations. As one of our most seasoned combat commanders testified recently, my hold has “no impact” on operational readiness.
Voting on each major military nomination shouldn’t be too much to ask of a U.S. senator, yet the idea has sent the Washington outrage machine into overdrive. With the military missing readiness and recruiting goals, perhaps it would be wise for Congress to scrutinize more closely the leaders at the very top. Are they part of the problem or part of the solution?
The contrast between the parties on this question couldn’t be clearer. Republicans are focused on the enlisted ranks—the people who actually fight our wars—while Democrats are worried about the people at the very top. The lowest-paid person affected by my hold would make $240,000 a year, yet Ms. Warren said she is worried about the nominees running out of “grocery money.” I haven’t heard a word from her about recruiting enlisted service members—the people the Army said should go on food stamps to cope with inflation.
For America’s security, and for the security of the world, the U.S. military needs to remain the greatest the world has ever seen. What we’re doing right now isn’t working. The military is having a Bud Light moment. Secretary Austin and his Democratic allies in Congress need to wake up before it gets even worse.
Mr. Tuberville, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Alabama.
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