Analysis – In their first days, President Biden and his new Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Lloyd Austin, have clearly shown what they consider top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense and its nearly three million military and civilian members – everything but actual military threats to the United States.
This obsessive focus on domestic, cultural, and other ‘woke’ issues, as China is bullying and threatening U.S. allies, Russia is hacking our infrastructure and government, and Iran is threatening to assassinate an ex-U.S. President, is disturbing many national security leaders.
As Military Times reports:
On his first day in office, Austin issued a message to the force that emphasized his commitment to finding ways the military can help the government move “further and faster” to fight the pandemic. Already there are more than 24,000 National Guard members providing logistical support for the vaccine program and giving as many as 50,000 shots per day.
Since former President Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ to develop and distribute COVID vaccines has a strong military component, as I noted here, this was expected, and it is a good use of National Guard resources. The problem is should it be the Pentagon’s very first priority?
More so is whether climate change should be a top Pentagon focus. As reported by Defense News, Secretary Austin stated that the Defense Department:
…will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity.
The Times adds, “Austin also is pushing for policy adjustments to account for the effects of climate change on military missions, as well as the consequences of extreme weather events on domestic military bases.”
Within days of Biden being inaugurated and signing a slew of executive orders targeting the climate issue, the Pentagon announced it would be featuring the climate issue as part of its future National Defense Strategy.
Again, not totally unwelcome, but the top Defense Department priority?
Then there is the controversial reversal by Biden of Trump’s ban on ‘transgender’ members in the military. Biden’s Executive Order immediately prohibits any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of ‘gender identity.’
While progressives argue this is a much-needed corrective, others question whether the Pentagon should be responsible for expensive and time consuming ‘gender reassignment treatments and operations’ for troops changing ‘identity’ after joining the service. They also question whether those members suffering from ‘gender dysphoria’ are the best suited psychologically to be in our combat forces.
On sex, in his first directive as SECDEF, Austin gave “his senior leaders two weeks to send him reports on sexual assault prevention programs in the military, and an assessment of what has worked and what hasn’t,” notes AP.
Defense and military leaders have grappled with these problems for years. Since including women in the armed forces, and their steady rise in numbers, sexual assault and related issues have plagued the services. AP notes that reports of sexual assaults have steadily risen since 2006, according to DOD reports, including a 13% jump in 2018 and a much smaller 3% rise in 2019.
Sexual assault and harassment in the military is a vexing and pressing issue that must be addressed, but should it be addressed as the very first directive of a new Secretary of Defense?
And finally, the most controversial top priority of the new Biden SECDEF – rooting out ‘extremism’ in the military ranks. At his confirmation hearing, Austin told senators that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
Accusing its own soldiers as possible domestic ‘enemies’ is a highly charged and unprecedented accusation by a Secretary of Defense. Following up on his remarks, on February 3, the Pentagon announced it had issued a DOD-wide, 60-day ‘stand down’ to address the issue.
Again, making this a top priority now for the Pentagon is deeply concerning.
The concerns about this new aggressive push include serious questions, such as what constitutes ‘extremist’ activity? What is permissible in looking for extremists in the ranks? And how does this not become an ideological or partisan witch hunt to purge the military of members and views the current administration doesn’t like.
This last issue is a serious concern requiring much more discussion. Meanwhile, in Biden’s new ‘progressive’ Pentagon, facing the global military threats to the U.S. will have to come later.