Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) have taken notable exception to recent Pentagon policy positions. The US Department of Defense (DOD) has been in a tizzy over Tuberville’s legitimate hold on flag and general officers’ nominations. But is it a state of pique of the Pentagon’s own making?
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has established a policy to subsidize abortions for military members. So Tuberville makes the case that taxpayers being forced to defray the costs of terminating the lives of the unborn is outside of and contrary to Title 10, US Code §1093, the law regulating the military. The Alabama senator sent a letter to Austin, questioning this issue, asking for a response “no later than September 1, 2023.” To date, there have been no answers and not even an acknowledgment of the receipt of the missive.
The questions the senator asked were not complicated, such as “Other than the ‘non-covered reproductive services’ which fall under this new policy, for what medical services does DoD reimburse all travel expenses and provide an additional 21 days of non-chargeable paid time off?” So Tuberville wants to know how this policy compares to that of any other medical condition of a service member requiring a specific procedure.
In an interview on CNN, service secretaries from the Navy and Air Force flacking for the White House impugned Tuberville’s dedication to national security, accusing the lawmaker of everything from diminishing the United States in the eyes of our enemies to aiding and abetting the Chinese.
Tuberville told Laura Ingraham on Fox News, “I didn’t think I’d come up here and ever be associated with terrorism and communism as a United States senator. Now that’s wrong. This is coming from the talking heads from the White House … Nobody has told [the Pentagon] no in three years. They aren’t used to saying, you mean we can’t get our way here?”
In support of Tuberville’s contention that his hold on nominations has not created a dire readiness and national security peril, some warfighter views contradict the service secretaries’ warnings. The Indo-Pacific commander, Adm. John Aquilino, US Navy, told a Senate Armed Services Committee, “Operationally, I am going to have no impact because the 7th Fleet commander is not going anywhere until a proper replacement is in place.
If DOD leadership thinks it has dodged a bullet by ignoring Tuberville’s request for information on the abortion subsidies policy, it would be wrong. The Alabama senator has put them on the spot with another letter about the wholesale firing of service members who chose not to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Tuberville wants to know more about the Defense Department’s support for “vaccine mandates that have depleted the ranks of more than 8,000 patriots – a policy that has actually damaged readiness and punished thousands of military families.” Some Americans might think the DOD is arrogant in its handling of these matters, putting it at odds with the foundational construct of civilian leadership of the military.
Pentagon Marinating in Woke
Meanwhile, Sen. Cotton is peeved at the Defense Department for its continual caving to the woke element in its leadership. In a Sept. 8 letter, the Arkansas senator called out Austin for changes in the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards that neuter the recipients of awards for heroic or distinguished actions. Cotton stated:
“I write regarding the Department’s decision to incorporate ‘gender-neutral’ language into decoration and award citations. Our military apparently will now use ‘themself’ — which is not even a word, I hasten to add — instead of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ to describe heroic or distinguished actions. Here is the absurd model language: ‘(Rank) First M. Last, Jr., United States (Military Service), distinguished themself by superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility as (position and duty assignment), from (month year) to (month year).’” (Emphasis mine.)
Furthermore, the language refers to specific awardees, not to a broad population. The previous guidance identified each recipient of an award as “himself” or “herself.” There is no biological argument for gender-neutral policies in the military. Cotton rightly admonished the DOD in his letter, telling the secretary:
“The Department’s embrace of far-left gender ideology doesn’t merely subvert the English language in ways that would astonish George Orwell. Worse, it exemplifies a Pentagon leadership consumed by the fads of the faculty lounge at a time when the Army can’t hit its recruiting goals, the Navy can’t keep ships out of dry dock, and the Air Force can’t find spare parts for planes.”
To Cotton’s credit, he did give Austin a graceful way out of this disgrace. He closed his letter with, “I also would welcome a reply that this whole episode was just a practical joke, or a decision you immediately reversed when it came to your attention.” But, regretfully, it’s no joke; it’s woke through and through.
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