The Biden administration has imposed an unprecedented dogma on federal employees, from Delta Force to the Department of Transportation. They can refuse only at cost to their careers. This must stop.
In addition to wishing to serve the public, uniformed and civilian officers desire promotion and recognition. That usually entails trying to please their leaders. While institutions may advocate speaking truth to power, everyone in them knows you do so at the potential price of promotion. That’s why heterodox heroes like the real Gen. George Patton, or Top Gun’s fictional Pete “Maverick” Mitchell often don’t get to the very top. That’s also why Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin seems to believe the military is rife with extremism, despite an exhaustive report that concluded that “extremist activity within the Department of Defense is rare.”
The U.S. military and federal agencies’ sharp left turn into woke ideology under President Biden has diverted limited training capacity without proof of benefit. Even the U.S. Special Operations Command now has a Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan which asserts that “diversity and inclusion are operational imperatives.” Really? As much as shooting straight and being tough as nails? Tell it to the Marines—no, wait, they’re writing one too.
Let’s be frank: as retired Army Brig. Gen. Ernie Audino writes, “diversity is not a national security imperative,” it’s a socio-political goal. Statements like “systemic inequality is a national security threat” (from the State Department’s Strategic Plan) or “it is a critical national security imperative to attain diversity with the officer corps” (Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar) are rhetorical aspirations, asserted without proof. The armies of China or Ukraine are no weaker for their lack of diversity. Training and morale are far more important, which is why Ukraine is doing so well against far bigger Russia.
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A new report, “Woke Warfighters” by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), notes that “forcing our military to engage in DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] trainings encourages supporting and advancing people on criteria other than competence and ability to carry out a mission.” That is true of civilian agencies, as well.
Under its new chief diversity officer, the State Department has gone all-in on DEI. To get promoted, Foreign Service officers are now required to show how they “advance” DEI principles, even though many of them have no scope for individual action. A China analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or a junior economic officer in Embassy Islamabad, both supervising no one, will just have to invent something to tick this box.
Meanwhile, the Department recently launched a “10-Day Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Interagency Equity Pursuit Challenge” to “educate employees about “four cultural groups”—“Women, Minorities, Persons with Disabilities, and LGBTQIA+.” (Notice the only group left out?)
The program asks all staff members to read or watch a video and then reflect on it “to inspire … employees to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles.” Nearly half the Department’s domestic workforce participated last year, and probably more will this year. Why? Not because the agency is a hotbed of intolerance or ignorance about DEI, but because they feel compelled to participate in this “voluntary” exercise to show fealty and have something to put in their annual evaluation.
One senior Foreign Service officer I know added “he/him” to his email signature, not due to any doubt that someone might wrongly assume his sex, but because he is looking for his next assignment and feels that not having this performative sign-off will be detrimental to his chances.
To standardize job interviews in the interest of fairness, State’s hiring managers are now required to ask each candidate the same standard questions. One of these is something like “What is your view of DEI?” followed by “What have you done to advance DEI in the workplace?” Any answers that attempt nuance, much less challenge the controversial ideology behind DEI, will be an automatic disqualification in an interview. At least, that’s the impression many State staff have, and they’re not wrong.
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The Foreign Service Institute now offers a course called “Promoting Gender Equality to Advance Foreign Policy.” Five years ago, “gender equality” would have meant equal opportunity and legal treatment for men and women. Today, the subject is a Trojan horse loaded with code-words and agendas like pushing State’s radical Equity Action Plan on foreign peoples as the price of our friendship.
Many State Department employees will take the Promoting Gender Equality course and the “DEIA Challenge” as performative gestures to please their superiors and peers. They will act the way people in the Soviet Union used to in front of the political commissars in their midst; carefully, with every effort to avoid expressing an opinion that might get into their file.
As Rubio and Roy write, just like our military, our federal agencies—including the State Department—must not “be turned into a left-wing social experiment” on the road to socialist conformity. Performance and merit should be the criteria for hiring and advancement in public service.
This piece originally appeared in the Detroit News