On Thursday, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who along with Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw had offered an avenue for members of the military to send whistleblower complaints about “woke” efforts to transform the U.S. military, revealed some blistering complaints he had received as he questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
After citing numerous examples of service members disconsolate from the “woke” incidents they cited, Cotton fired off a series of questions to Austin, including, “Should a member of the organization you lead be treated differently in violation of the Constitution, I would add, based on their sex or the color of their skin?”
Austin answered, “No, I do not believe that,” but then added, “And that is why we have diversity, equity and inclusion focus in the military,” later insisting, “I would also say that diversity, equity and inclusion is important to this military now, and it will be important in the future.”
Cotton started by saying, “Mr. Secretary, I have received, along with Congressman Crenshaw, several hundred whistleblower complaints about Pentagon extremist and diversity training. I just want to share a small selection of what your troops are saying.”
He followed by citing reports of a military history training session being replaced with mandatory training on police brutality, white privilege, and systemic racism; instructions to a member of Special Operations that “The U.S. Special Operations community is racist”; a general officer telling an Army officer that “the entire U.S. Army is racist”; a midshipman at the Naval Academy attesting that classmates were calling America a “fundamentally racist place” and were not challenged by school administrators; an airman saying their unit was forced into a racist exercise called a “privilege walk”; a Space Force officer saying an African-American servicemember said after the training that she would never have joined the military had she known that it was such a hotbed of racism; and a white airman who said he didn’t sign up to be indoctrinated, then filed separation paperwork.
Full transcript below:
Cotton: Mr. Secretary, I have received, along with Congressman Crenshaw, several hundred whistleblower complaints about Pentagon extremist and diversity training. I just want to share a small selection of what your troops are saying. … One Marine told us that a military history training session was replaced with mandatory training on police brutality, white privilege, and systemic racism. He reported several officers are now leaving his unit, citing that training. Another service member told us that their unit was required to read “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo, which claims, and this is a quote, “People raised in Western society are condition into a white supremacist worldview.”
A member of the Special Operations community has told us that they are being instructed that “The U.S. Special Operations community is racist.” One Army officer relayed to us the word of his general officer, who told him that the entire U.S. Army is racist.
A midshipman at the Naval Academy said classmates were calling America a “fundamentally racist place” and this sentiment is not contested by school administrators.
An airman told us that their unit was forced into a racist exercise called a “privilege walk,” where members of the wing were ordered to separate themselves by race and gender in order to stratify people based on their perceived privilege.
One African American officer disparagingly said, and I quote, “The Navy thinks my only value is as a black woman” and not the fact that she is a highly-trained military specialist.
Soldiers have come forward to tell us they are being forced to watch videos about systemic racism and documentaries that rewrite American history as a fundamentally racist and evil nation. One Space Force officer told me that two guardians left his ranks in a short period of time; one was a young African-American who said that after the training that she would never have joined the military had she known that it was such a hotbed of racism. The other was a white airman who said he didn’t sign up to be indoctrinated, and filed separation paperwork.
Mr. Secretary, we’re hearing reports of plummeting morale; growing mistrust between the races and sexes where none existed just six months ago and unexpected retirements and separations based on these trainings alone. And again, these are not my words, these are the words of your own troops. So I want to ask a few simple but vital questions. Mr. Secretary, do you believe that our military is a fundamentally racist organization? Yes or no, please?
Austin: I won’t give you a yes or no answer on that, Senator, because it deserves more than a yes or no. The military, like any organization will have its challenges, but I do not believe it is a fundamentally racist organization.
Cotton: Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to cut you off. But our time is limited. I think it is a pretty simple question. I’m glad that you agree, it is not fundamentally racist. Do you believe that any member of the military should be treated differently based on their skin color and sex? Again, yes or no will do?
Austin: Again, this question deserves more than a yes or no answer.
Cotton: I’m sorry to cut you off our time is limited. It is a very simple question. Should a member of the organization you lead be treated differently in violation of the Constitution, I would add, based on their sex or the color of their skin?
Austin: No, I do not believe that. And that is why we have diversity, equity and inclusion focus in the military.
Cotton: It’s in the military for decades has been one of the institutions in the society where you are most likely to get ahead based on your own performance on your own merit, irrespective of the color of your skin or where you came from or who your parents were.
Austin: Sir, I have to agree with that. And I am an example of that you. And I would also say —
Cotton: Mr. Secretary, your career is an excellent example of that. But I have more questions based on the reports we’ve seen. The military has included the works of critical race theories on its reading list by authors like Abraham Henry Rogers, who now calls himself Ibram Kendi, and Robyn D’Angelo. Mr. Kendi has written, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Do you agree with that proposition?
Austin: I’ve not read that. And I don’t, you know, I certainly don’t agree with what you just said. But I know, it’s always important to have a current full context of anything that you’re being asked to evaluate.
Cotton: Mr. Secretary, do you believe that race and sex should be the key factor when selecting combat leaders, rather than say, operational excellence, technical proficiency, leadership, agility and integrity?
Austin: I do not. Senator, I think what you just said should be key components in making any selection.
Cotton: Thank you. I’m glad we agree on all this. So let me just wrap up by saying this. If troops are subjected to the kinds of trainings, drawing on critical race concepts like America, and our military is inherently racist, or certain races are inherently privileged, other races are inherently victimized, given what you’ve said, should they report it up their chain of command to the Inspector General or to other appropriate channels?
Austin: They’ve always had — Yes, they should, they’ve always had that ability to do that. And I would recommend that in the future. I would also say that diversity, equity and inclusion is important to this military now, and it will be important in the future. And so we’re going to make sure that our military looks like America, and that our our leadership looks like what’s in the ranks of the military, and I appreciate your support on that.
Cotton: And I agree with that. And like I said, the military has always been one of the most diverse institutions, our society where you can get ahead irrespective of the color of your skin, or who your parents are or where you came from. And I’m glad that we agree on that. This is not about diversity in general, though; this is about a very specific kind of anti-American indoctrination that is seeping into some parts of our military based on the whistleblower complaints we have received. Thank you. My time’s expired.