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Politicization Impacting Trust in the Military

The perception that the U.S. military is “pursuing ideological goals at the expense of military readiness and effectiveness” is negatively influencing service recruiting and retention policies, says a report issued by a group commissioned by the Heritage Foundation.

An eight-member panel led by Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee, was asked to examine “what, if any, impact the progressive social and environmental agenda” has on readiness. Waltz is also a Maryland Army National Guard colonel.

The other panelists included retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, retired Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop Jr. and Earl Matthews, a former White House and Pentagon official who served in the Army Reserves for 23 years.

A December 2022 Maru/Blue survey found concern about current personnel and environmental policies.

Asked which area of “politicization of the military” has the greatest cause for concern, respondents said reduction of physical fitness standards to promote equity (41%); an overemphasis on diversity programs (41%); and the requirement for the military to pay for abortion-related travel (40%).

Other factors most impacting trust in the military were allowing unrestricted service by transgender individuals, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, fitness test standards and climate change as a top national security threat.

More than 65% of active-component military personnel who participated in the poll said that politicization would impact whether they encourage their children to join the military. A decline in trust in the military is reflected in other polls.

A February 2022 Pew Research poll reported a nine-point decline in confidence in the military between 2020 and 2021.

A July 2022 Gallup poll also found a five-point decline in confidence in the U.S. military in just one year. But Heritage’s panel rejected claims by right-wing media commentators that the military has gone “full-woke.”

Heritage’s panelists remain “confident in the resilience of the U.S. military’s ethos and professional ethic.” The U.S. military’s ideology has gotten much attention this year in Washington, D.C.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the Air Force chief of staff, and Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, told Defense One in separate interviews earlier this year that the evidence doesn’t show diversity policies are harmful.

During a House Oversight Committee hearing last week on the impact of progressive policies on the all-volunteer service, retired Lt. Gen. David W. Barno argued “wokeness” wasn’t to blame for the military’s current recruiting issues.

Yet Barno added that the rhetoric surrounding the issue undermines “military effectiveness in ways that are the exact opposite of what this debate intends.” Barno, a former commander of troops in Afghanistan, is now a visiting professor of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing on how progressive policies impact the all-volunteer service is available here.

Source: Jennifer Hickey for NGAUS

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