By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
Republican GOP leaders and committee members on Armed Services vowed they’ll look for ways to slash “woke” spending from the defense budget and strengthen the military on Tuesday, hours before President Joe Biden’s landmark State of the Union speech.
Biden highlighted his efforts to strengthen the U.S. military and defend against a warlike and rising China Tuesday evening, but Republican members pushed back, telling the Daily Caller News Foundation that politicization of the military and Biden’s latest handling of a Chinese spy balloon encroaching on U.S. sovereign territory displays weakness. Part of the GOP’s agenda will be ensuring the U.S. military grows more “lethal” and dissolving excess spending on “woke” priorities like green energy, transgender services and diversity programs, many said.
“Get rid of all the wokeness, first of all. Get rid of the wokeness, then we can start talking about how long it takes us to produce a weapon system,” freshman Republican Rep. Keith Self of Texas, who sits on the veterans affairs and foreign affairs committees and boasts a 25-year career in the Army, told the DCNF in an interview.
Wokeness in the military is “hard to put your finger on” Florida Republican Rep. Scott Franklin, former House Armed Services Committee member with 26 years in the Navy, admitted the DCNF. However, “I think it is absolutely a critical driver in our inability to meet our recruiting goals,” he added.
The Army fell 25% short of its recruiting goals for 2022. At the same time, military recruiters redirected focus away from traditional recruiting grounds toward urban areas, potentially alienating rural Americans who have historically filled out the military’s ranks, Franklin said, an analysis experts have previously shared with the DCNF.
“We’re sending a message to people, the base of support we’ve traditionally had for the military, that … they’re not welcome here. We do that at our peril,” Franklin said.
Congress authorized millions on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, green energy policies and research funding specifically targeted at universities that cater to minority groups in the latest defense spending bill for 2023, which also includes funding for the Department of Energy.
As Speaker of the House Rep. Kevin McCarthy looks to cut spending in exchange for GOP support for his leadership, House members told the DCNF that “woke” provisions in the defense budget could be eliminated while preserving needed defense spending.
“Do I think defense is the place to focus? No.” GOP Oklahoma Rep. Stephanie Bice told the DCNF. “But is there money to be saved whether that’s flicking out some of the woke programs they’ve implemented across the service branches…?”
Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy introduced a bill in the House in January that would defund the positions of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Senior Advisor for Diversity and Inclusion in the DOD.
“We need to scrub everything out that is not increasing our lethality, that does not contribute to our lethality, and turn our budget into making the most nimble, the most powerful military,” Self told the DCNF.
Other examples include funding transgender surgeries and conducting diversity and transgender-affirmation training at U.S. military academies.
At the State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Joe Biden championed military modernization efforts rolled out under his administration that “safeguard stability and deter aggression.”
“Today, we’re in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world,” he said.
China has embarked on a massive military buildup as it prepares to launch a possible kinetic invasion of Taiwan, the DOD warned in a November report. The Biden administration has pledged to reinforce the posture and capabilities of the U.S. armed forces in a way that would deter China from taking military action as Beijing’s global threat came close to home in recent days.
“President Biden tried to call it a success that they shot the balloon down over the ocean. The problem is, it was the wrong ocean to shoot it down over,” House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana said at a press conference ahead of Biden’s speech. Instead, the balloon crossed the U.S. from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the coast of South Carolina and attempted to collect intelligence on sensitive U.S. sites before the military downed it in the Atlantic.
The DOD claimed it delayed shooting down the balloon until all risk of danger to civilians was over, adding that the extra time allowed U.S. intelligence agencies to gather valuable information about China’s surveillance capabilities. However, the commander in charge of aerospace defense in North America later acknowledged a “gap” in the military’s ability to identify balloon threats.
Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York called the incident a “failure” and Biden’s response “unacceptable.”
“This was showing weakness to China rather than strength. It should’ve been dealt with,” she told the DCNF.
The Department of Defense declined to comment.