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Posted on Apr 22, 2021 Print this Article

“Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan” Will Weaken Special Operations Forces

Within days of his Inauguration on January 20, President Joe Biden signed three executive orders to impose “woke” social policies on our military.  The U. S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) responded with a 20-page Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan that will turn priorities upside down in America’s most elite fighting forces.

On March 28, Army General Richard D. Clarke signed a letter declaring in its first sentence, “All of us understand diversity and inclusion are operational imperatives.”  The “woke” Strategic Plan provides no evidence of that, but the mantra is repeated 12 times on 20 pages.

SOCOM clearly intends to elevate diversity, inclusion, and equity above mission effectiveness and overall readiness.  The Center for Military Readiness has analyzed details in the SOCOM manifesto and its future implications:

CMR Policy Analysis: “Woke” Leaders Betraying Special Operations Forces

Diversity is a good thing, which historically has benefited our military.  Long before the civilian world, President Harry Truman desegrated the military and recognized individual merit.  President Biden’s executive orders, however, are not consistent with the military’s tradition of non-discrimination and respect for individual merit.

The first Biden order forbids “Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” in all government agencies, including the Department of Defense.  Biden followed that with a second order, titled Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform, which reinstated problematic Obama-era policies regarding transgenders and persons with gender dysphoria. 

A third executive order, titled “Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” reversed President Donald Trump’s executive order removing toxic critical race theory (CRT) programs from the military.  Biden also abolished Trump’s President’s 1776 Advisory Commission, which challenged errors in the controversial New York Times “1619 Project.”  

These ill-advised executive orders, which Secretary of Defense and retired Army General Lloyd Austin III fully supports, will weaken our military with percentage-based demographic quotas, heightened sexual tensions, and racialist critical race theory training programs that polarize and demoralize the troops. 

CRT programs are toxic because they judge all personnel by superficial characteristics such as sex, skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or demographic background.  The ideology assumes that non-minority personnel support “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.” 

Nowhere are inverted race- and sex-conscious priorities more concerning than in elite Special Operations Forces (SOF) coordinated by the U.S. Special Operations Command. 

Forces affected will include fighting teams in the Air Force AFSOC, Army ARSOC – which includes the 1st Special Forces Command Airborne, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR Nightstalkers), the Delta Force, and 75th Ranger RegimentNavy NAVSOC (SEALS), Marine Corps MARSOC (Raiders), and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). 

These elite forces seek out and destroy the enemy, often in covert missions that are complex, extremely difficult, and physically demanding.  (Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations and female engagement teams (FETs) or cultural support teams (CSTs) also come under JSOC and they serve “in harm’s way,” but they are not the units of primary concern.)

The CMR Policy Analysis asks questions about the SOCOM Strategic Plan and provides more details on the following reasons why implementation could demoralize elite troops, cause missions to fail, and lives to be needlessly lost.

1.  SOCOM’s Obsession with Diversity & Inclusion

Twelve times on 20 pages, the SOCOM plan asserts without evidence that “Diversity and inclusion are operational imperatives.” 

Q: What evidence, in actual military experience, supports this assertion? 

None is offered in the SOCOM Strategic Plan, which barely mentions realities of war.  The document uses business-style vocabulary throughout, ridiculously implying that SOCOM fighting teams are no different than corporate “enterprises” that “compete” in the civilian workplace. 

2.  Prioritizing “Diversity & Inclusion” Inevitably Will Lower Standards

Training requirements for special operators who engage in lethal missions are extraordinarily difficult and designed to separate the best from the rest.  Out of 1,000 aspirants each year, only 200-250 succeed

Only the most qualified and determined people are selected for elite SOF fighting teams, but SOCOM’s declaration that “Diversity is an operational imperative” signals that priorities have changed. A second question should be obvious:

Q: How would demographic diversity mandates for significant percentages of women and LGBT sexual minorities strengthen the combat effectiveness of SOF combat teams?”

Lowered standards to meet diversity goals are inevitable, even though mission requirements will not change. 

3.  Attitudes Are Not Free: Consequences of “Diversity” As An “Operational Imperative”

As we have seen in other formerly all-male military communities, prioritizing “diversity and inclusion” above the needs of the military means that male/female physical standards will be redefined and “validated” at levels that are “equal” but lower than before. 

The SOCOM Strategic Plan refers to high training requirements and scoring systems as “barriers” that should be removed for the sake of diversity and inclusion.  This will be done with the help and advice of “diversity professionals” who soon will be interfering in command decisions to ensure “inclusion” of more women and LGBT sexual minorities in Special Operations Forces. 

As the CMR Policy Analysis explains in more detail, the SOCOM Strategic Plan spells out what commanders are supposed to do to make this work.  For example:

  • “Identify barriers to diversity and inclusion in cultural norms, narratives, programs, processes, and procedures and work to create a more inclusive organizational climate.” (p. 9, referenced numbers may vary.)
  • Ruthlessly self-assess our cultural norms, narratives, programs, processes, and procedures and work to create a more inclusive organizational climate” . . . [Also] “Eliminate all exclusive language, behaviors, narratives, norms, and practices from the command.” (p. 12)
  • “Provide safe spaces for USSOCOM team members to identify exclusive practices without fear of retribution.” (p. 12)
  • “Identify diversity gaps in SOF career fields and use SOF key leadership positions to leverage resources to fill gaps by refining, maintaining and sustaining reliable databases and dashboards to continually monitor data and demographics.” (p. 12)
  • “Develop accountability mechanisms to hold leadership accountable for facilitating recruitment, assessment, and selection of diverse SOF.” (p. 13)
  • Integrate diversity and inclusion principles within operational planning and mission execution to create more culturally competent teams and engage adversaries more effectively.” (p. 13)
  • Increase hiring rates of diverse applicants” . . . “Monitor attrition rates of target demographics. . .. [Also] Develop a culture of leader accountability focused on the intentional development of personnel through innovative talent management practices.” (p. 15)

These mandates raise questions about how they will affect promotable commanders’ decisions:

Q:  Will officers who induct or promote better-prepared candidates be denied promotions if their choices fail to increase gender and sexual minority diversity metrics?

In view of what the Strategic Plan says, trainers and commanders who “ruthlessly” re-assess standards to meet diversity quotas will be rewarded in their careers, but those who do not will be punished accordingly. 

4.  Special Operations Forces Are Not So “Special” That Nothing Will Go Wrong

In September 2015, then-SOCOM Commander Army General Joseph L. Votel should have joined then-Marine Commandant General Joseph Dunford in asking for exceptions to the Obama Administration’s orders to include women in all combat arms communities, including the infantry and Special Operations Forces.

At that time, SOCOM may have thought that their high standards were beyond the capabilities of most women.   They still are, but under General Clarke’s current leadership, SOCOM has changed the paradigm to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity first.

This means that officials will re-define training standards, change scoring systems, drop the toughest events, or substitute easier alternatives to fit the mandated diversity goals.  Someone is sure to ask, “Is it really necessary for SEAL trainees to do PT with heavy wet logs on the beach?”

Individuals belonging to “under-represented” groups may be deemed qualified, even if they are not as competent as others who do not fit desired diversity goals.

5.  The Army’s Experience with Gender-Neutral Combat Fitness Test Standards

After the Obama administration changed policies regarding female soldiers in 2015, Army leaders confidently promised that women would qualify for physically demanding specialties such as the infantry under gender neutral standards identical to men.  Since then, however, undeniable realities have shattered illusions of gender equality.

Consider the Army’s difficulty in implementing the gender neutral ACFT, which is widely perceived to be a fiasco.  Problems first became apparent when unofficial pass/fail records of 3,206 soldiers in 11 battalions performing the test resulted in an 84% failure rate among female trainees and 30% among male trainees.

The Army has been trying to fix the ACFT without setting women up to fail, but gender-neutral standards have not worked.  On ACFT 2.0, Army data showed a 65% failure rate for females and 10% for males. 

The latest plan, dubbed ACFT 3.0, attempts to account for biological differences by establishing “blind scoring,” which would rate women against other women in “percentile” bands without displaying individual scores.  This could mean that the top 5% of women will be considered essentially the same as the top 5% of men.  In the real world of SOF, no such “equality” exists. 

6. “Diversity” Quotas Distort Personnel Decisions

Results of gender diversity mandates in the New York Fire Department (FDNY) are a cautionary tale and relevant to what could happen in Special Operations Forces. 

When a would-be female firefighter failed the FDNY qualification test six times, she was allowed to conditionally graduate from the Fire Academy in May 2013, even though she had failed the running test.  She quit the force without having worked a tour of duty. 

In December 2015, however, FDNY officials gave her another chance.  According to sources quoted by the New York Post, this time “the fix was in.”  The FDNY quietly eased its standards to admit more women, while denying that anything had changed.  Insiders who were aware of the double standards and dissembling going on were forced into silence. 

Lessons learned are important and relevant to Special Operations teams, which are being re-defined as “enterprises.”  High standards will not survive if “diverse” individuals are not allowed to fail. 

7Sexual Tension Weakens Military Cohesion and Readiness to Deploy

Conditions experienced by Special Operations Forces on land or in water are exceptionally harsh.  Personnel carry on their backs heavy weapons, ammunition, and minimal nourishment, but not blankets and creature comforts.

There are times when special operators must huddle together, skin-to-skin, sharing body heat to survive.  The introduction of disruptive sexual tension into such units suggests another question:

Q: How would the introduction of female and LGBT sexual tension into Special Operations Forces teams increase concentration, readiness, and chances of mission success?

The SOF Strategic Plan says little about harsh SOF warfare requirements and nothing about human dynamics affecting discipline, morale, and readiness to deploy and fight as a cohesive unit.

8. Outside Political/Activist Influence

The SOF Strategic Plan calls for “conversations with internal and external diversity and inclusion subject matter experts in corporate, academic, and operational fields,” and recommends the involvement of affiliated affinity groups to advise, assist, and support diversity and inclusion efforts.” 

It also calls for “Diversity and Inclusion Officers” at SOCOM Headquarters and all service components and commands, raising questions about their purpose. (p. 14, emphasis added) 

Q:  Will the referenced “conversations” “support” and “assistance” be conducted on the public record, and will SOCOM invite the one-sided participation of advocates of critical race theory (CRT) training and “LGBT Pride” month events at SOCOM facilities?

The initial hiring of since-reassigned Richard Torres-Estrada to be SOCOM’s first “Diversity & Inclusion Officer” indicates that SOCOM is creating what could become a growth industry for outside consultants, contractors, LGBT “affinity groups," and woke “experts” in critical race theory, such as Ibram X. Kendi.

These advisors and activists likely will operate without public disclosure, except on divisive occasions such as LGBT Pride Month in June, which used to take place at the Pentagon and some military bases during the Obama/Biden Administration.


Imposition of woke ideology, with career penalties for non-compliance, could do irreparable harm to our Special Operations Forces, weakening America’s ability to fight and defeat all potential adversaries in an increasingly dangerous world.

Special Operations Forces in allied countries, such as Norway, are not the equals of American fighting forces, on which NATO allies depend. Practices that have made SOCOM and its affiliated commands the best in the world are being turned upside down, and potential adversaries have reason to celebrate.

The CMR Policy Analysis recommends that Congress should exercise its constitutional responsibility to make policy for the military.  Members should ask tough questions and take immediate action to restore sound priorities in America’s Special Operations Forces.

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The Center for Military Readiness is an independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) public policy organization, which reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  Tax-deductible contributions to support CMR’s work can be made by clicking on our secure donation page, linked here.


Posted on Apr 22, 2021 Print this Article