A pair of Republican House leaders on Thursday accused Army officials of covering up evidence that social justice initiatives are hurting military recruiting efforts, and demanded the service turn over all survey data on the topic to Congress.
“We continue to receive analysis of cherry-picked data that is not giving us the full picture of why the Army is seeing historically low recruitment and retention rates,” said Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on readiness, in a statement.
“Right now, it should be the shared goal of Congress, our military leaders, and the [President Joe] Biden administration to get to the bottom of this crisis so we can ensure our military is ready for any threat our nation faces.”
Earlier this month, Army officials released partial results from surveys of potential recruits which indicated young adults were turning away from the service because of the demands and dangers of military life.
Officials spoke to the Associated Press about the general parameters of the survey (conducted in spring and summer of 2022) but declined to provide any detailed methodology or results. But they indicated to the news service that issues of diversity or inclusion policies represented only a minor factor in individuals’ reluctance to consider a career in the Army.
The Army was about 15,000 soldiers shy of its recruitment goal last year. Other military branches reported significant difficulty reaching their recruiting goals as well.
While military officials have pointed to the strengthening economy and robust job market as reasons for the shortfalls, conservative lawmakers have blamed the problem on “wokeness” in the ranks, a catch-all term to describe policies connected to race, gender and sexual orientation.
In a letter to Army leaders on Thursday, Waltz and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel, asked for the release of the entire survey results, saying the findings are “of great importance to the American people.”
They cited a pair of polls by conservative groups that showed declining trust in the military because of over politicization of the force, saying the results directly contradict the Army’s findings.
Banks has vowed to make the Defense Department’s diversity and inclusion policies a focal point of his subcommittee’s work this spring.
“Wokeness at the Defense Department has harmed recruitment, retention and morale, wasted service members’ time and taxpayer’s dollars, and undermined the apolitical character of the military which is a major threat to democracy and the American way of life,” he said in a statement.
He also promised that upcoming hearings will be devoted to “rooting out wokeness” in the military ranks.
Army officials told the Associated Press that they could not release the full data sets connected to the surveys because the work was done by a private research contractor, whose licensing agreements limit the public release of some portions.
Service leaders have already warned that recruiting for the current fiscal year may be even worse than fiscal 2022, with a potential shortfall of 20,000 soldiers.
Hearings on the topic before the House Armed Services Committee are expected to begin in March, but no specific timeline has been announced yet.
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.