General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Brussels, Belgium on June 15, 2023.
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The country’s top general said “wokeness” perceptions are a “contributing factor” to recruitment challenges.
He argued that such perceptions are overblown, but they’re having an impact anyway.
Republicans in recent years have increasingly derided the military as “woke.”
The military has been struggling to recruit new members. And according to the nation’s top general, “wokeness” is playing at least a small role.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Gen. Mark Milley — the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a key reason driving the recruitment shortfalls, noting that military recruiters couldn’t engage in normal on-campus high school recruitment for two years. He also pointed to data showing that recruits are failing a key academic test to get into the military, which he also suggested was caused by the pandemic.
But while Milley insisted that “wokeness” isn’t the main reason for the recruitment shortfall, he did say it was a “contributing factor.”
“I personally think that it’s overstated,” Milley said of “wokeness,” adding: “There are things that are done in the military that certainly, you know, raise that as an issue, but the actual facts suggests that it’s much less significant than perhaps the perception is.”
He went on to address drag shows on military bases and critical race theory, two issues that Republicans in recent years have sought to highlight as “woke” issues plaguing the military.
“I don’t agree with drag queen shows being on military bases. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said. “How many times it happened? It happened a few.”
The military recently banned drag shows on military bases after Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida raised the issue during a House hearing in March.
“Same thing with critical race theory,” he added. “Agree or disagree with critical race theory, it is not a theory that the Department of Defense or the military is embracing and shoving down people’s throats.”
Republicans have claimed that the theory — a way of understanding how race has impacted society and policy — is being taught within military training and school instruction on military bases.
The House-passed version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act would explicitly ban the practice after 9 House Democrats joined with Republicans to approve an amendment to do so that was proposed by Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.