House Democrats on Tuesday staved off a floor debate over “woke” military policies regarding force diversity, but likely only for a short while.
That’s because House Republicans vowed to return to the issue when they take the majority in the chamber, which happens at the start of next year.
“Next year, the new majority will be conducting robust oversight of these issues and we will demand accountability from this administration,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who is expected to take over as House Armed Services Committee chairman when Republicans take control of the chamber.
“Americans are growing increasingly concerned with the direction of the military in recent years. DoD’s current political appointees are pushing questionable policies on our troops just to satisfy the ideological agenda of a minority of Americans.”
At issue are a series of military policies on increasing diversity, allowing transgender recruits and researching racial bias in the armed forces. Tuesday’s events served as a preview of one likely friction point on Capitol Hill in coming months.
Defense Department officials have said the topics of diversity and inclusion among troops are critical to maintaining morale and building camaraderie within the fighting force. Conservative critics have blasted the efforts as “social engineering” that takes away from military readiness and battlefield training.
The two sides have also sparred over whether the efforts hurt or help military recruiting, which has sagged in recent months.
In November, Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde introduced a resolution requiring the Defense Secretary to turn over to Congress all records created since Jan. 21, 2021 that mention the words “transgender,” “gender identity,” “non-binary,” “safe space” and other related terms.
Both House Democratic leaders and Defense Department officials called the request nearly unworkable, given the amount of time it would take to search through millions of emails, memos and other correspondence.
House Armed Services Committee members on Tuesday used parliamentary procedures to sideline the resolution for now, blocking Clyde or other GOP members from bringing the issue to the chamber floor for debate in the waning days of the congressional session.
Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he is open to discussions about the value and limits of diversity training, but called the resolution “the mother of all fishing expeditions” by House Republicans.
“Historically, we have had discrimination across the county against many different groups,” he said. “At a time when are short of personnel, excluding personnel for reasons other than their ability to do the job is just stupid.”
“This [resolution] does not help the military. This is not a good way to address serious issues.”
But Republicans on the panel disagreed, and vowed to return to the issue soon.
“We need a fighting force that is a fighting force,” said Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Ala. “We don’t need to focus on issues that seem to be important to the far left.”
Tuesday’s meeting by the House Armed Services Committee was likely the last one before the transfer of power to Republicans takes place. Rogers’ comments at the event served as a warning to defense officials that the issues will be brought back up again soon.
“[Military leaders] should be devoting their attention to deterring China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and a long list of others that seek to do us harm,” he said. “Instead, they’re doing somersaults to satisfy the far-left’s political agenda.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.