by Bob Barr
The increased defense spending in the Biden administration’s recently released FY 2023 Budget may have upset the radical left wing of the Democrat Party, but U.S. military policy continues to flounder under the leadership of President Biden and his “woke” Defense Department team.
The setting for what has become an embarrassing national defense posture was laid out at the very start of Biden’s tenure and has only worsened since then.
But first, the numbers. In the budget sent to the Congress at the end of March, the president proposed to spend $831 billion for defense, a number that drew a harsh rebuke from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It is all for show.
While the administration’s proposed 4% increase in defense spending angered the likes of Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, the fact is that a 4% increase in spending for the next fiscal year does not come even close to accounting for loss of military buying power due to the record level of inflation we are experiencing; now close to 8%.
The actual weaknesses in the proposed defense budget are now becoming clear. For example, immediately after the anemic 4% defense spending increase was announced, the Department of the Army stated that its active-duty troop strength would be reduced to what is reported to be the lowest number since just before WW II – 473,000.
A top Pentagon official, Army Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo, declared that cutting the service’s active troop strength was not a “budget-driven decision.” If not in fact budget-related, such a statement raises major questions about precisely what factors are “driving” this administration’s national defense policies.
At the very same time that the Army undersecretary was claiming (with a straight face) that the troop strength cuts were not in any way budget-related, he asserted (also with a straight face) that the cuts were essential for “maintaining high quality of our talent and recruiting.” Say What?
Just days before Camarillo’s blathering at his March 28 press conference, his boss – Army Secretary Christine Wormuth – announced that the Army was discarding plans to employ the same physical fitness test for all soldiers, regardless of gender or age, and instead use a weighted test. The relaxed physical fitness standards according to which active-duty Army personnel would henceforth be gauged, lower the requirements for female and older soldiers.
So much for objective standards in the soon-to-be-smaller Army ranks.
America, however, should not be concerned with a less-than-physically-fit Army because, as asserted by Wormuth, these new standards are supporting a more important goal – the Army’s “ability to continue to retain women.”
The goal of ensuring that America’s Army moving through the third decade of the 21st century will have more female soldiers in the ranks, is but one of the several problematic national defense goals heralded by Biden and his national defense team, headed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Pentagon chief has not been shy about declaring that among the Defense Department’s top priorities are rooting out “extremism” in the ranks; defeating COVID-19 (in part by removing any and all personnel who object to a COVID vaccination); ensuring that “diversity, equity and inclusion” is built into every aspect of national defense policies; and ensuring that (just as on college campuses) every Department “member” has a “safe and supportive place” to protect them as they protect us.
Priorities such as these are overtly reflected in “woke” Army recruiting ads such as last year’s “two mommies” video. And, while Austin and his boss took great umbrage at a recent congressional hearing during which Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz challenged the Pentagon’s “wokeness,” our national defense policies — as articulated and as implemented – the evidence is everywhere.
Whether viewed through the lenses of military wokeness, or as an adjunct to placing “climate crisis at the center of U.S. foreign policy and national security,” the muscular national defense strategy of “peace through strength” that led to the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in the final years of the 20th century, is nowhere now to be found.
How far down this dangerous route we will travel before making a major course correction, or before we face a perhaps existential challenge from abroad, are questions that should be receiving far more attention on Capitol Hill than they have been.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.