(The Center Square) – The Pentagon is increasingly struggling to fill the weapons and equipment requests for the war in Ukraine. At the same time, taxpayer funds are going to pay for ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the military, most recently one controversial Pentagon official pushing anti-police and pro-critical race theory books at schools for the children of military families.
The New York Times recently highlighted the Pentagon’s manufacturing problem with a story headlined: “From Rockets to Ball Bearings: Pentagon Struggles to Feed War Machine.”
The Pentagon would reportedly struggle to manufacture enough precision missiles if conflict with China broke out after sending over a decades worth of Stinger missiles to Ukraine as soon as the war broke out, one of multiple concerning manufacturing issues that have been exposed by the demands of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I’ve been sounding an alarm for months about shortcomings [and] shrinkages in our defense production capacity,” U.S> Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in response to the story. “Mergers [and] supply chain issues are only part of the problem. America is neglecting our biggest resource – people. And our key challenge – workforce training.”
Those difficulties come as the Pentagon increasingly focuses its attention, and funds, on equity initiatives.
Critics say the Pentagon has become distracted. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, commissioned a report that laid out a series of examples of racial and gender ideology permeating military training, policies and leadership, all at taxpayer expense, as The Center Square previously reported.
In one of those examples, the report points to official training materials in which West Point cadets are lectured on white privilege. The report points to another case where a slide presentation for the Air Force Academy is titled, “Diversity & Inclusion: What it is, why we care, & what we can do,” which warns cadets to avoid gendered language, such as terms like “mom” and “dad.”
The recent Department of Defense’s comptroller’s budget report points to millions of dollars in equity funding as well.
“Ensuring accountable leadership by adding nearly $500 million in FY 2023 to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military, enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) programs, and addressing extremism in the ranks,” the comptroller report said.
“The Department will lead with our values – building diversity, equity, and inclusion into everything we do,” the report added.
The report points to $86.5 million for “dedicated diversity and inclusion activities.”
“Additionally, to facilitate, inform, and advance agency progress on issues relating to DEIA, DoD established the DoD Equity Team (DET) in 2021,” the report said. “The DET addressed a broad range of DEIA issues, including the need for increased diversity within the talent pipeline; challenges pertaining to DEIA data collection, analysis, and management; and integration of D&I curriculum into leadership development training.”
Major Charlie Dietz, a DOD spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, pushed back against the GOP report after its release.
“Diversity, inclusion, and equality at its core is about leveraging the strengths of all our people, advancing opportunity, addressing potential barriers or discrepancies, and – fundamentally – ensuring people are treated with dignity and respect,” he told The Center Square at the time of the report’s release. “We always talk about weapons systems, yet every one of us will agree that our greatest weapons system are our people. So that’s why our policies to better leverage our people and increase unit cohesion are important here.”
The Pentagon’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has come under increased scrutiny after one of its employees was caught tweeting anti-white comments online.
Open the Books, a government spending accountability group, helped uncover Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) chief, Kelisa Wing, who published a string of racist tweets and has a history of promoting her own critical race theory-themed books.
Open The Books said discovered Wing pushed “radical ideologies premised on Marxist and Critical Race Theory frames; questionable ethics; substantial conflicts of interest; and even side businesses.”
In her tweets, Wing said she was “exhausted by white folx” and blasted “caudacity,” a slang term for boldness among white people.
“[T]his lady actually had the CAUdacity to say that black people can be racist too…” she tweeted. “I had to stop the session and give Karen the BUSINESS… [W]e are not the majority, we don’t have power.”
Lawmakers raised questions about Wing during a hearing last week. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., peppered Gilbert Cisneros, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, with questions during the hearing, but he had few answers.
“Have you read Kelisa Wing’s books, titled ‘What is White Privilege?,’ ‘What Does it Mean to Defund the Police?,’ and ‘What is the Black Lives Matter Movement?’” Stefanik asked. “Are you aware that these books are in DoDEA’s K-12 schools throughout the country?”
Cisneros said no to both questions. He did say the DOD does not condone Wing’s tweet.
Wing has been removed from her involvement with military schools but was not fired.
“I will take it as a result that we delivered,” Stefanik said. “She should have been fired completely, but she was at least moved somewhere else, not dealing with our kids’ educational systems.”
Critics said Wing’s scandal and removal is just the beginning. For now, it highlights an ongoing battle over the role of federal funding for controversial equity initiatives, especially when federal agencies are struggling with their primary responsibilities.
“It took multiple investigations from us and multiple hearings from Congress to finally get some answers and some action from the Department of Defense,” Adam Andrzejewski, Open The Books CEO, said. “Unfortunately, there are still outstanding questions for the Pentagon, including whether they plan to eliminate the role or find a replacement for Wing. The DoD also should account for how much public money is being spent on DEI material and trainings all across the Defense Department.”